Magazine article Newsweek International

Better Spell It 'Cyberia': Software Start-Ups Thrive in the Silicon Taiga

Magazine article Newsweek International

Better Spell It 'Cyberia': Software Start-Ups Thrive in the Silicon Taiga

Article excerpt

Vladimir Malukh, a 33-year-old computer programmer, regularly receives e-mails from Microsoft. The software giant wants to hire him, and has offered him several incentives: a work permit, a fat salary, a nice apartment in Redmond, Washington-even driving classes. Malukh isn't interested. "When you've lived in the Soviet Union, the last place you want to work is Microsoft," he says. Malukh much prefers running his own thriving company, called ProPro, which makes computer-design software. "We have clients around the world," he says.

So far, so familiar. But Malukh is more than an independent-minded software entrepreneur. He's an independent-minded software entrepreneur who lives in Siberia. Specifically, in Akademgorodok, a once secret "academic town" started by Nikita Khruschev in 1957 as a defense- industry research center. Since 1994 more than 40 software companies have sprung up in this town, which is 2,000 miles from Moscow, 20 miles south of Novosibirsk and sufficiently prominent in cyberspace to have earned the nickname of the "Silicon Taiga." Lodged in decaying university buildings, these fledgling firms are producing products for such world-class technology companies as Canada's Northern Telecom and America's Sun Microsystems. Akademgorodok is teeming with cheap talent. For many years, mathematically gifted students from across Russia were brought to the city to study. Its institutes were the country's most and its scientists the most privileged, shopping in well-stocked stores. …

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