From Silicon Valley to Business in Russia

The engineer and business information technology specialist Siegfried Köhler has always worked internationally. The programme “Fit for Business with Russia” helped bring about a major business shift: He moved his software sales business from the US to Russia and founded a start-up that converts golf course pumps for use in shipyards and factories in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

While others his age are entering retirement, Siegfried Köhler has been busy tapping into new business sectors in the eastern European market, working on new technology and software ideas – and, as a side project, even selling innovations like a diver navigation system, which was developed by Russian programmers, to the German market. He can thank his participation in the programme “Fit for Business with Russia” for his latest contacts and customers. “Without a doubt a five-star programme”, is how the multifaceted and international entrepreneur sums up his experience, and lists the successes he has achieved through the exchange programme: “During our visit to Russia in 2018 we went to a shipyard where I was able to establish initial contacts for my high-pressure pump system. I had already started converting pumps that were used to maintain golf courses with the help of two subcontractors in Germany. The water stream was ideal not just for getting perfectly green grass, but also for removing incrustations from ship walls, and even cutting metal and ceramic materials. I was also able to use my business presentations in Russia to persuade another construction firm to use my pumps for concrete restoration.” And, at a group visit to the regional trade fair in St. Petersburg, Köhler met business representatives from St. Petersburg who work at a Hamburg officer. They were interested in selling Russian software, which he now obtains directly from Russian programmers. Before that he had been importing the software through the Siegfried Köhler produces his IT products in cooperation with Russian entrepreneurs. US, although the programmes there had usually been developed beforehand in Russia.

Crisis-Proof Thanks to Multiple Streams of Income

“I’ve been self-employed for over 30 years and have learned that as an entrepreneur you’ve always got to have multiple sources of income to safely withstand a crisis,” says Siegfried Köhler. In the 1970s he was one of the first to import software from Canada and the US. For instance, the mechanical engineer and business information technology specialist introduced software (DADiSP) that can analyse greater volumes of data in order to calculate seismographic vibrations for forensic speech recognition or for the safety of ICE and Transrapid routes and for Airbus to the German-speaking regions of Europe.

“There are very good programmers in Russia. So why sell software from the US that was initially developed in Russia – why not just buy it directly from there yourself ?” is what Köhler was thinking when he applied for the Manager Training Programme. He established direct contacts through the GIZ to Russian programmers and entrepreneurs and now, for instance, he sells an underwater navigation system for divers in Germany that was developed in Russia. And more products are already in the planning: like measuring instruments that detect whether people are inside shipping containers or smoke detectors that can detect fires earlier than conventional models.

To sum up: “I’m more than happy about the contacts in Russia – they have really expanded my horizons. Without the “Fit for Business with Russia” programme’s organisers and instructors I wouldn’t have been able to do it. What really impressed me was the willingness of the Russians to help out and the open and honest discussions!”