Belarusian regime shuts down country's main startup hub
"Horizon Holding terminates Imaguru's office lease unilaterally without any explanation, citing "the order from above."

The Belarusian regime shuts down the space of free-thinking innovative entrepreneurs and the birthplace of a large number of startups, the country's main startup hub, and the country's gates for international VCs.

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WHAT HAPPENED?
Imaguru Startup HUB has been leasing the office space from Horizon Holding since 2013. April 16, 2021, Horizon informed Imaguru about the unilateral lease termination of the office space on 4 Fabricius Street in Minsk, Belarus. Imaguru was given until April 30 to vacate the premises. In the tone characteristic to the regime, Horizon cited that even though they have the unconditional right to unilaterally terminate the lease, they strongly recommend Imaguru to part on a "mutual will."

No one provided Imaguru with any official reasons for their lease termination. According to Horizon Holding, they "just urgently need the space back for their own use." Notably, there are lots of Horizon-owned vacant spaces on Fabricius Street, which could be used for this purpose.

The representatives of Horizon state that office lease is not the main business of their company. At the same time, they assure us that Imaguru is a flagman for other businesses — if there wouldn't be Imaguru, there wouldn't be other businesses that leased the space. It seems Horizon ended up being confused about their own arguments. It's easy to get confused when your motivation is not to do business but just to follow "orders from above."

We don't see any rationale behind this decision. Imaguru always pays rent on time, and Horizon received around $1.5M within 7 years of the business relationship. Imaguru invested in repairs and full remodeling of over 2000 square meters of the space that was not suitable for office lease prior to these renovations. Until 2013, the whole building was rotting under the unprofessional guidance of a state-owned company. However, after Imaguru leased the space, Fabricius Street quickly became a go-to place for young business-minded people.

But we understand that this short-sighted decision of the Horizon management is associated only with Imaguru's active civiс position. Back in early March, unidentified men wearing masks broke into Imaguru's office, blocked the exit, put young event attendees against the wall, and brought them to the police station.
March 5, 2021: unidentified men wearing masks broke into the Imaguru office
April 16, 2021: Imaguru office lease terminated unilaterally
  1. Imaguru is not silent about lawlessness, repressions and persecution against civilians who defend their rights to an honest and fair choice.

  2. Imaguru is not silent about the regime shutting down the business, investment and startup environment — something that was being created by many people, including local officials, for many years.

  3. Imaguru is not silent about the massive relocation of startups from Belarus, about the catastrophe of this for the country and the role of the HTP in this process.

  4. In recent months, the Imaguru has turned from a startup hub into a hub of solidarity with all incredible Belarusians who elected the Presidium of the Coordination Council in Imaguru, recorded videos of solidarity with PandaDoc, united into labor unions and parties. Imaguru supported the strike on October 26, 2020. The Global Entrepreneurship Week Belarus, which was organized by the Imaguru team, was opened by the Belarusian Leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
THE STORY OF IMAGURU
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
2021
Founded by the Belarusian businesswoman Tania Marinich, Imaguru opened during the Global Entrepreneurship Week Belarus on November 18, 2013. Back then, a startup hub was rather an unusual name for the entrepreneurship community in Belarus. 8 years ago, our community characterized Imaguru as a business club where people aim to develop their professional and entrepreneurial skills. The name came from the phrase "I'M A GURU," and was organically transcribed by Belarusian entrepreneurs as Imaguru.
In 2014, Imaguru was named the Best Startup of the Year at the Business Internet Conference. Within a few months of work, Imaguru earns trust throughout the startup community and is now organizing a multitude of educational events, including Business Breakfasts, TechMinsk Accelerator, startup competitions, hackathons, development courses, meetups. Imaguru's coworking space is now 100% filled and even has a waiting list. The office is open from 8 am to 10 pm every day, with no weekends. Yuri Gursky receives an award for Mentor of the Year. Imaguru continues to grow, preparing for another office expansion.
In 2015 Imaguru finished repairing other vacant spaces of the Horizon-owned building and almost doubled its space. More space for coworking, meetings, events, and more opportunities for a new audience. In the same year, Imaguru started entrepreneurship courses for teenagers, TeenGuru. Intensives, vacation courses, design classes, international visits and study tours to other countries were still not enough for the scale of the entrepreneurial spirit that has settled within the Imaguru walls. That same year, Imaguru was one of the organizers of the first-ever international startup conference in English, Venture Day Minsk. In the same year, MSQRD was born at Imaguru during the Garage48 hackathon.
In just 6 months after the Imaguru hackathon, MSQRD was acquired by Facebook. At that point, the whole world started paying attention to the Belarusian startup ecosystem. Tech geniuses with a passion to change the world are born here, supported by Imaguru. Many Imaguru events are hosted in English because the Imaguru team understands that the startup community can grow only through the development of the VC ecosystem. In 2016, the first angel investor network has been formed in Belarus, becoming the foundation of the Belarusian Business Angels Network, BBAN AngelsBand.
In 2017, Imaguru started the Business Angel Academy through which the most active and famous business angels were born. For the first time in history, the Global Entrepreneurship Week Belarus is opened with the foreword by the Premier Minister of Belarus A. Kabiakou (it was made possible thanks to the efforts of Siarhei Rumas, ex-Chairman of the Board of the Development Bank of Belarus. This year, Imaguru also invites stars of the global startup ecosystem — for instance, Peter Vesterbacka, ex-marketing leader of Angry Birds. Media worldwide now talks about the phenomenon of the startup movement in Belarus. In 2017, Imaguru was officially defined as a startup hub, as this term was already familiar for Belarusians.
In 2018, Imaguru organizes international hackathons, startup competitions in London, Tallinn, study tours to Finland. Imaguru continues to promote the potential of Belarus in the global startup ecosystem. Ex-Imaguru resident Mikhail Rumiantsau met an investor for his startup FriendlyData at Venture Day Minsk. By the end of 2018, we all heard about another Belarusian success story, when an American company ServiceNow bought FriendlyData. It's already common for Imaguru to organize excursions for international delegations and guests of Minsk around the free and innovative startup hub, available to all. International guests invited by Imaguru include Mike Butcher, TechCrunch editor-in-chief, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Cihan Sultanoglu, Minister of Economy of Finland Kai Mykkänen, and others.
In 2019, Imaguru goes through another expansion and is investing in repairs and remodeling of the third floor at the building owned by Horizon Holding. It means more attendees, more events, as well as more education and innovation. Imaguru organizes study tours to the US, UK, Finland, Spain. Founded at Imaguru, Belarusian accelerator TechMinsk becomes the first equity accelerator and VC fund in Belarus. The same year, TechMinsk becomes one of the few European partners of Google for Startups.
Imaguru meets the challenges of 2020 with dignity. In April we organize Venture Day Minsk online, attracting over 4600 attendees. In summer we hold startup hackathons, adopting the program of the TechMinsk accelerator for an online format, including the educational courses for investors. Imaguru has managed to adapt itself and now helps other companies to do the same. Coworking space became a safe place to work, and event spaces have become studios for online webinars and conferences. In August 2020, Imaguru could not keep silent about the lawlessness that crossed all boundaries of the "social contract" between the Belarusian dictatorship regime and the country's citizens. The Presidium of the Coordination Council of Belarus was elected at the Imaguru. Tania Marinich, CEO and founder of Imaguru, joined the core team of the Coordination Council, leading the business group. In the company of other active and talented leaders, many initiatives have been launched in order to help the business community, including To Business! Helping Repressed Companies, Belarus Digital Future movement: conference and hackathon. For the first time, the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Belarus was opened by the Leader of Belarus, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
Despite all the difficulties, including the political crisis and the pandemic, within 3 months Imaguru has started another TechMinsk accelerator program, picking the eight most promising startups. Together with the Coordination Council, Imaguru also kicked off the Belarus Digital Future hackathon. In 2021, Imaguru also successfully educated 80 female business leaders on how to implement innovations in their companies, within the framework of Innovation Lab by Women. Additionally, Imaguru held a series of events for female leadership in the technology and VC business, Women IT Week, as well as a remote entrepreneurship program for teenagers, TeenGuru. Imaguru educated teachers, kicked off Imaguru Startup LAB, accepting 16 teams with new startup ideas. Imaguru announced a conference for supporting the startup community and Belarusian VC investors Venture Day Minsk, which will take place online on April 29, 2021.

On March 5, unidentified men wearing masks broke into the Imaguru office, kidnapped the event attendees, blocked the exit, and took all detained to the police station.

On April 16, Horizon Holding informed Imaguru about the unilateral office lease termination.


April 30 is the last day of work for the Imaguru Startup Hub.
YOUR FAVOURITE EVENTS AT IMAGURU
WHAT DOES IMAGURU MEAN FOR THE ECOSYSTEM?
Imaguru is the core startup hub in Belarus
Helped over 300 Belarusian startups
Among those startups are Splitmetrics, MSQRD, PingFin, DEIP, TrackDuck, which formed and released their first prototype at the Imaguru hackathons. GiveAway won a startup competition at Imaguru. The founders of Onesoil and 80days.me went through the TechMinsk accelerator. And there are many many more talented startups from Belarus.
Imaguru startups created 3500+ jobs
The job market in the private sector is one of the main indicators of the business ecosystem in a healthy economy. Every employer should be proud of the fact they create opportunities for other people. And we at Imaguru are proud that with our support, over 3500 talented people were able to join startups.
Imaguru startups attracted $100M+ in investments
Imaguru startups were accepted to many accelerators in the world, including Startup Sauna, Rocket Start, 500 Startups, Y Combinator. Startups were able to meet investors at events, conferences, Imaguru study tours, TechMinsk accelerator programs. Thanks to all of that, startups were able to attract millions of dollars in investments.
Imaguru itself created 250+ jobs in Belarus
Many Belarusian companies note that Imaguru is the source of manpower for the ecosystem. Within 7 years, over 250 talented people worked at Imaguru, and we're very grateful to them for it. Many of them are now part of such successful companies as EPAM, Wargaming, Flo, PandaDoc, HYPERVSN, and others.
Imaguru was the gateway for many VC funds and investors
Imaguru introduced Belarus to many international VC investors from the US, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Singapore, Japan, the UAE, Turkey, Great Britain. One of the most famous success stories from Belarus, startup FriendlyData met their investor at the Imaguru conference.
Imaguru educated over 12,000+ people and held over 3500+ events
Every month, over 10000+ talented entrepreneurs attended events at Imaguru. Most of Imaguru's educational events were open for attendance. Imaguru educated the new generation of teenagers, which are now becoming adults and creating their own companies. Over 3500+ events were held at Imaguru. And you know what?
All of it is not in vain!

The regime can take away our premises, physically destroys our business, but will never be able to take away what's inside us — our freedom, our talents, our intellect, and our community.


We've already built a community of free and passionate entrepreneurs, and this is Imaguru's contribution to the Victory of Belarus.


HOW CAN YOU HELP IMAGURU?
Spread the word about what happened to Imaguru
The regime really wants the story of the destruction of Imaguru and the Belarusian startup ecosystem to go unnoticed — let's not let this happen. It is important for us to tell why Imaguru is no longer here. Those people who took part in shutting down Imaguru in Minsk must be held accountable. Publish these posts with the hashtag #helpimaguru
Tell this story to the media in the country where you live
We would really like the international community and diasporas to support Belarusian startups
This way we'll make sure to stay always connected
Save a part of Imaguru for yourself
You can buy Imaguru's cozy merchandise in our online store.
Continue taking part in our events
We'll do our best to stay connected with you online and continue to host our streams and events. The closest one is Venture Day Minsk Online, coming up on April 29th. You can register here. Also, you can order our Imaguru services, which we can continue to provide online. It's essential for us!
WHAT'S NEXT?
Dear friends, we'll definitely meet you in new Belarus!

In the meantime, we'll continue our mission with even more passion, to speed up the change and birth of new Belarus. We're not stopping our fight and are not even thinking about stepping away.

We will be online in those countries where government and society appreciate and honor free, talented entrepreneurs who are able to change the world.
MESSAGE FROM TANIA MARINICH, THE CEO AND FOUNDER OF IMAGURU
MASS MEDIA AND SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUT IMAGURU
OUR CONTACTS
+375 291 189 989
info@bel.biz
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