Leo transforms into a lion
News of Marc Zuckenberg’s purchase of Belarusian Masquerade Technologies is a true sensation, as the businessman is known for investing only in successful projects. The price is undisclosed but around $100-150 mln may have changed hands.
“We’re grateful to all those who’ve congratulated the brilliant MSQRD team. They are stars!” wrote Belarusian IT-guru Yuri Gursky, on his Facebook page, supporting the young developers. “They’re just 23-24 years old and I’ll stake a case of cognac that we haven’t heard the last of these guys.”
The billionaire’s decision to buy the firm is clearly motivated by his realisation of the potential of the application and the team behind it. The application has become wildly popular since launched four months ago, being downloaded by 15 million users. Its success is likely to spread, as it’s now available for both iOS and Android.
MSQRD offers fifty masks, including animals and the faces of Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Donald Trump and David Bowie. Each mask can mimic facial expression and users can upload their own selfies for posterity. The application received huge publicity at the Oscars, when Leonardo Dicaprio’s mother tried on her son’s mask, as did various others at the awards ceremony.
Masquerade Technologies was founded by Yevgeny Nevgen (on the left), Sergey Gonchar (in the foreground) and Yevgeny Zatepyakin in 2015. The first ‘real’ version of the MSQRD application was developed in just 48 hours. Mr. Nevgen is also a founder of SplitMetrics (Maps.me) and the creative director of the charitable auction of meetings — MaeSense. Photo: tut.by
Two day startup
Incredibly, it took just two days for the developers to prepare their first version of the application, offering eight masks, including moustaches, a tiger and a monkey. No money was spent on promotion and the team had no expectation of success, as Yevgeny Nevgen notes. Their friends were the first to test the application, and enjoyed it greatly, asking to download the application. He tells us, “We released our application on Christmas Eve and, importantly, media persons began using photos and videos from our programme. Famous rap music performer Basta was the first to bring it to public attention, when he posted his photo under a hare mask on Instagram. The former soloist of ‘Chai Vdvoem’ band, Stas Kostyushkin, tried on the face of Kochita Wurst, and that was the beginning of our success!”
Batman and others
“Younger people mostly like the Stalin mask,” notes Mr. Nevgen. “However, it’s likely to be his moustache that makes him popular! Most have no idea who Stalin was, being unaware of him politically!” Fans are now inundating the developers with requests for masks: of Batman, Joker, the Hulk and other cinema characters. “Video-chats are part of the future,” Yevgeny is convinced. “However, unlike text messages — where smiles and stickers are normally used, video-communication lacks the chance to express positive reactions. We’ve addressed this gap and our next version aims to enable users to create their own masks. Brazil and Japan use different characters, while we boast the largest catalogue.”
World of Tanks, Viber... and who’s next?
Alexey Leshchev, the Deputy Dean of the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics’ Department of Computer Systems and Networks:
Belarus has so many intellectual resources linked to IT, but needs conditions for development. The state is investing into human resources, organising all sort of Olympiads and IT tournaments. Higher education is producing qualified IT specialists (the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics offers high quality training) and Belarusian programmers are being very much encouraged. The High-Tech Park is holding onto specialists, enticing them to stay rather than move abroad. Talented young people receive good salaries, travel abroad on business trips and develop products gaining global popularity. Belarusian World of Tanks online game, Viber messenger and the MSQRD application confirm this. Surely, these are not our last developments.
By Kristina Khilko