Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

How did Viktor Prokopenya make his fortune?

Sergej Susloparov, UDF.BY

How did Viktor Prokopenya make his fortune?
Viktor Prokopenya
The majority of Belarus millionaires hold their tongues when it comes to the origin of their fortunes. Yet a new generation of businessmen buck that trend. In 2016, successful Belarusian entrepreneur Viktor Prokopenya was named the countrys biggest taxpayer, an achievement he didnt hesitate to share on his Facebook profile. The businessman took pride in filing the largest tax return in Belarus' modern history, equal to almost $1.5m.


This is how Prokopenya got rich

Minsk native Prokopenya is barely 33 years old and yet, he is Belarus highest-earning taxpayer. Despite prolonged sojourns in London and Cyprus, Prokopenya hasnt packed his bags for an offshore tax haven. Instead, he stays in Belarus and pays his taxes of $1.5m.

Viktor Prokopenya first entered the super-rich list of the countrys top earners in 2012, following the sale of his first business Viaden Media. Prokopenya launched Viaden as a student and five years later, the startup grew into one of the largest game and software developers in the former Soviet Union. At that point, Viaden was bought by Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi. Financial experts suggest the price range between $70-100m. Still, the lump sum Prokopenya received from the sale was truly life-changing.

Viaden Media kick-started Prokopenyas multifarious business track. By 2014, the entrepreneur had built an investment portfolio around real estate. Indeed, VP Capital Real Estate is one of the largest private owners of high street Real Estate in Minsk. The companys property portfolio features Belarus' most expensive streets: Marksa, Myasnikova, Kisileva, and Komsomolskaya.

I wish Minsk had more urban retail and sported as many cafes and shops as any European city. The Soviet school of architecture viewed the ground floor as suitable for living and now its full of apartments. VP Capital seeks out properties with urban potential and transforms them into popular locations. Just recently, we opened a cafe at 8 Marksa Street. It hasnt paid off yet, but it feels right to help bring a positive change to my home-city, says Prokopenya.


IT millionaire

Viktor Prokopenya sees the IT industry as the future. The entrepreneur is engaged in several diverse projects at once. His core business is exp(capital), a fintech, founded in 2012. The company is primarily engaged in developing and distributing software solutions for the financial industry. Based in Minsk and the Isle of Man, exp(capital) claimed the Most Successful IT-company Award in 2016. Even those who dont normally follow IT news, perhaps came to learn about exp(capital) when the President paid it a visit in March 2017.

In 2014, exp(capital) made the news as Belarus Startup of the Year. It was then that the media found out about the market making company for the first time and it became a known name in the IT sector. Exp(capital) has broken away from the traditional Belarusian IT business model, strongly oriented towards outsourcing services. Today, the company contributes top-quality liquidity into the high frequency foreign exchange markets and presents their own price for financial instruments.

One of the founders, Yury Gushchin, attributes the companys success to the products tech savviness rather than mass marketing tricks.

The final product is extremely complex, which serves as a barrier to hackers. It is challenging to use our product, let alone steal it, comments Gushchin.

The company was started with just 10 people. Today, it employs 70 professionals.

Viktor Prokopenya is convinced his team is made up of Belaruss top brains. Indeed, President Lukashenko mentioned the financial return for the company on one employee of $33k a figure exceeding the countrys average by 5.6 times.

The return for Apple or Google on their employees is $1.86 and $1.15m respectively. This shows an enormous gap between providing outsourcing solutions and offering original products. Apple and Google are the benchmarks to which we aspire. It is important that Belarus IT industry reorients itself towards the latter. Such changes should be supported by the government, says Prokopenya.


Billionaire-to-be

This year, Viktor Prokopenya has been shedding more light on his outflows, rather than inflows. In fact, the VP Capital investment fund together with Larnabel Ventures (an investment fund that belongs to Russian billionaire Gutseriev) plans to invest at least $100 m in IT startups. First and foremost, they are going to promote projects based on Artificial Intelligence technology.

As of today, the projects of interest are as follows: American space startup Astro Digital; Belarusian mobile app developer Banuba, centred around machine learning and neural networks; and German Dronefence, specialising in safety network development. Just in the last 6 months, these startups have already made the news. Astro Digital, for instance, launched two satellites another milestone that Viktor Prokopenya shared on his Facebook profile.

These two satellites show how the system works: imagery production, distribution and analysis. We plan to have daily footage by Q1 2018, writes Prokopenya.
Banuba can already boast a visit by the President, which took place in March 2017. Considering that it has already made $5 m of investments, the company can count itself among Belarus high-end IT companies.