Where do most successful Russian start-ups originate? In the opinion of ordinary people — in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Siberia (Novosibirsk and Tomsk — hello there!)... And somewhere at the very end of the list, in small print under an asterisk — the Far East. The only high-profile case is the InDriver project from Yakutsk. This is a transportation service in which travel conditions are determined as a result of an agreement between drivers and passengers. But it's not all that bad at all. There is technological entrepreneurship in the Far East, which is developing, although it is developing quietly.
The leading university of the Far East, FEFU, has its technopark with 75 residents, and this is us, the Russkiy Technopark. Two regional Skolkovo operators are operating in the Far Eastern Federal District, competitions, and accelerators for start-ups are held annually. The administrations of the subjects regularly provide grants for the development of technological projects. Since the Russkiy Technopark operates in Vladivostok, the article will focus on the Primorsky start-up world. We are confident that our colleagues from Yakutia and the Khabarovsk Territory will pick up the baton and also tell about themselves.
The majority of Russia's inhabitants associate the Far East with right-hand drive cars, crabs, scallops, business in the style of “buy cheap in China, sell houses at a higher price” and people in leather jackets and sportswear, living by the concepts of 25 years ago. Only those who were lucky enough to get to the WEF remember far Eastern start-ups. Meanwhile, they are like a gopher — you do not see them (yet), but they do exist.
The thing is that most of the start-ups in the Far Eastern Federal District are focused on the regional market. Many are afraid to go to the federal level because of the territorial remoteness and the need to adapt the product for “Europe”. Besides, the Far Eastern Federal District market is not oversaturated with innovations, so here you can very inexpensively and effectively test hypotheses — you do not need to go far and spend a lot, but you can earn perfect money. But some were not afraid to enter the federal level, including outside of Russia — and they came to success.
Suppose we now name several successful Far Eastern, and, in particular, seaside projects. In that case, you will hardly be familiar with them. Meanwhile, they ensure the industrial safety of Gazprom's oil platforms using a modular intelligent system (Visitech), implement voice bots for Russian Post and IP telephony for Korean hospitals (Hotlead), launch pilots with Rostelecom and PEC (Tomoru), make web constructors based on artificial intelligence (Aiger) and perform at the VEF.
The administration, state development institutions, corporations, and venture funds with technology parks extend the “helping hand” to local start-ups.
For example, here is a selection of projects, funds, and contests that support start-ups in the Far East, particularly in Primorye:
— Primorsky Start is a grant competition of the Government of the Primorsky Territory. It was established after the victory of Robot Adam at the Start-up Tour 2020. The prize fund is 20 million roubles. The grant can be spent on finalizing a working prototype, R&D, commercializing a project, or creating design documentation.
— The Far Eastern Fund for High Technologies (DFVT) is a venture fund established by Rusnano, FEDV, and RVC in 2018. From high-profile cases: invested 100 million roubles in the Sakhalin company Visitech, 75 million in the Khabarovsk Hotlead. We have our own Mentoring Club, which any Far Eastern start-up can turn to for advice, even at an early stage of development. Consulting is provided on a non-commercial basis.
— Technopark “Russkiy” — a center for coordination and support of technology start-ups and student innovation projects in the Far East. Seventy-five residents, including the Visitech mentioned above, Hotlead, Aiger, Tomoru, and other technology projects. Technopark is the regional operator of Skolkovo in the Far East. We make our own accelerators for early-stage projects and “adult” start-ups.
— FSI — has its own Far Eastern representation. He helps young and student projects to participate in the programs “Smart”, “Start”
— CPM “My business. Primorye” is one of the few centres of “My Business” that really helps projects. The 50 Best Innovative Projects competition is the easiest way to get a small incentive grant for projects at the idea level.
— Regional Innovation Platform of the Far Eastern Railway — the project of the Far Eastern Railway. They help hardware start-ups responding to requests from Russian Railways to launch pilots on Russian Railways infrastructure.
— VEB Ventures is a VEB.RF Group company created to support high-tech projects through direct deals and venture capital fund management. Annually supports projects at the Far East stage of the Skolkovo Start-up Tour, VEF, and other events. This is far from a definitive list. We have included in it only those opportunities that our residents use while getting a return.
Summing up: Technological entrepreneurship in the Far East lives on, develops and destroys the prejudices that business beyond the Urals is “buy/sell” and “catch a crab”.
By: Dana Musina.