Sanjar Kettebekov: Startups should meet market demand

May 31. Kazpravda

By Rysty Alibekova

Sanjar Kettebekov: Startups should meet market demandSanjar Kettebekov is a native of Kazakhstan, who founded his company in Silicon Valley. He came to our capital to take part in the international conference and exhibition of information and communication technologies ASTEX 2013, held within the frames of the VI Astana Economic Forum. We took an opportunity to meet with the head of IT-company and asked some questions.

– What is the specialization of your company?

– The company is engaged in applied technologies for the processing of user’s behavior to increase the effectiveness of online advertising. I.e. we estimate the cost of displayed advertising for the user. This is absolutely new technology being introduced on the basis of a new direction called cognitive analytics – the synergy of mental simulation and artificial intelligence. Practically we forecast the level of user’s attention for each viewing on the base of his behavior.

The U.S. market is hard to get access there. In order to do this we offer a niche solution.

At the same time, our company is aimed not only at the U.S. market, but also at the global market. We have already presented our technology in Russia. I hope that in near future we will work with it in Kazakhstan.

-The theme of your presentation at the conference – exhibition is “The behavioral analytics is a gold mine.” Is this a promising direction?

– This is the next level of technology. It replaced the technology, designed for speedy processing of amount of data. At this stage, we focus on the psychology of people, on human relationships or transactions in which the person is a constituent element. This is done to optimize the process. In principle we try to understand the psychological status of a person and on its base to offer him what he can consume at this moment.

In Kazakhstan, in order to give impetus to the development of IT-sphere the participants and startups are provided with various incentives and preferences in the Park of information technologies. And what are the conditions for business in the Silicon Valley?

– There is no such support there and all is encouraged by commercial interest. When technologies payoff, the private capital, which fulfills in fact the role of the government, as it is done in Kazakhstan, is involved. Therefore, relationships there are based on the benefit and capital.

– There is an acute shortage of personnel in the IT area in our country. High-level professionals go abroad. What steps do you think we need to take to attract them in the domestic industry?

– It is necessary to create an ecosystem that provides adequate funding and critical mass of personnel. You probably need to speed up this process, involving experts from abroad and at the same time “nurturing” domestic specialists, creating thereby the critical mass that will allow people to stay here. The problem is that you do not have in the IT field such companies as “”, “Yandex”. Although in Kazakhstan there are such companies, for example, as “Kazakhtelecom” which has resources and is in need of personnel. That is, you should have more companies which are interested in attracting staff.

– How is a strong staff supported in the U.S.?

– By demand for these specialists. This is also one of the main conditions of our company – to be competitive. Personnel determine almost everything.

– You were involved in the selection of start-up projects, organized by the Foundation for the Development of ITC. How would you characterize the quality of the projects?

Frankly speaking, most of them are “raw” in terms of both technological and business areas. Their competitiveness leaves much to be desired. The matter is the Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian companies are already present in Kazakhstan and the CIS market is open. And a startup developed in Kazakhstan, should be competitive for the beginning in the CIS space. This is the main challenge and together with the Fund we will focus our efforts on it.

The submitted projects will pass several stages. At the first phase the projects will be accelerated, i.e. we will develop an adequate business model and identify key technologies. In this case, a group of experts, including western specialists will be engaged to help the start-ups, which will pre-determine their competitive direction.

Then the projects that passed the initial screening and proved their viability and effectiveness, will reach the stage of incubation. At this stage, a group of experts will focus on some niche markets, i.e. it will be the expansion, the introduction of business, may be the determining of markets, etc.

Of course, these startups will not be supported by seed capital, as in the case of acceleration, but by specific infusion of venture capital, possibly corporate sponsorship of national companies, such as “Kazakhtelecom”, “Kcell” and others. Thereby the Fund of ICT development provides financing of newly minted companies. This process will begin with the ICT Development Fund and, I hope, will “spill” into other areas. Indeed the ICT will become an engine for innovations.


Sanjar Kettebekov, founder of the company Segment Interactive.

Since 1996, S. Kettebekov has been engaged in the development of architecture of anthropocentric technologies for the use, study, and monetization of digital media. Prior to the creation of the company he headed the user interface in the corporation Tribune Company and also worked as a senior information architect at the global consulting firm in the field of IT, serving corporations, which were included in the Fortune 500. He is a holder of doctor degree of the University of Pennsylvania, and is a research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. Sanjar Kettebekov worked on several start-ups in the field of modern and interactive technologies, including search interface Yahoo!, emergency management system of the administration of the port New York and New Jersey, and is involved in the development of technologies to study abnormal behavior in psychiatry and neurology (Harvard Medical School) and gesture -speech interfaces.

As a member of the research team he was nominated for the “Technology Innovation of the Year” by the magazine Discover.

Sanjar Kettebekov is also a former member of the national team in modern pentathlon and is still engaged in sport in fencing club in Los Angeles.