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Press about Auriga

Apr 11, 2005

Russia build tech bridges

Boston Herald,
Jesse Noyes

The man often credited with freeing the Eastern world will arrive in Boston tomorrow.

Former president of the Soviet Union and Nobel laureate Mikhail Gorbachev is giving the keynote speech at the Mass Software Council's annual spring meeting.

Gorbachev's Bay State appearance isn't an attempt to heal political tensions. His visit is a sign of the little publicized but quickly growing partnerships between Russia- and New England-based software companies.

Boston has been a hotbed in recent years for U.S.-Russian alliances. And the disputes of the White House and Kremlin haven't blocked business.

“Politically the countries seem to be drifting apart,'' said Brian Phelps, president of StarSoft Development Labs. ``But from a business-to-business angle, they seem to be coming together.'' StarSoft is one of the many companies that are part of RUSSOFT - a Russian software industry group that signed an agreement with the Mass Software Council in 2003. That partnership spawned trans-Atlantic channels of communication. There's even a U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce of New England.

“Mostly they want visibility here and we do it because we want partnering opportunities,'' said Joyce Plotkin, president of the software council.

Alexis Sukharev is hoping for some visibility, too.

As president of Auriga Inc., Sukharev had been a major player in U.S.-Russian software development. Acting on behalf of RUSSOFT, he tracked down Gorbachev at an event in San Francisco and convinced him to visit Boston. RUSSOFT then asked the Mass Software Council to be host.

For Sukharev, Gorbachev's appearence tomorrow means a chance to make Boston tech companies aware of the rising Russian presence in the Northeast. And a chance to get more American companies involved.

Other industry players hope the event will stir the Russian-American software pot.

Phelps' company follows the current model of business in tech development with the executive arm in the United States and the labor located in Russia.

That common structure is the result of Soviet-style education, which focused on producing a technically advanced student with little or no emphasis on marketing.

That led many Russian developers to rely on Americans to sell their products. Boston's international fame in technology and higher education provided a perfect source to tap into.

But Phelps is quick to note that there is room for equality on both sides of marketing and development. “(Russian consumers) are just as eager to purchase American software as they are to purchase Levis jeans and Jeep Grand Cherokees,'' said Phelps.

It's this picture of cooperation that Gorbachev may try to portray tomorrow. If he does he might be picking up on a signal that United States and Russian governments are missing: when it comes to teamwork, go high tech.


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