The Deputy CEO Mikhail Antonov told theRunet of how the accelerator program is formed and what awaits developers after GenerationS.
Mikhail Antonov, Deputy CEO – Director for Innovation Infrastructure Development, member of the Management Board of RVC, JSC has occupied this position from 2017. From 2012 to 2017, he has been the director of the project office at the Moscow management school “Skolkovo”. He told us of what the project must look like to be enrolled in the accelerator, what investors pay attention to and how the GenerationS participants build their future career.
GenerationS is the largest start-accelerator in Russia and Eastern Europe. It has been held by RVC since 2013. More than 20 Russian corporations become industrial partners of GenerationS every year. In 2016, 4,237 applications from 30 different countries were submitted for participation in GenerationS. The GenerationS-2016 prize fund amounted to 15 million rubles. The total value of prizes from partners exceeded 100 million rubles.
— We form every new GenerationS season based on the analysis of trends in the venture market. Now we try to attract corporations to the venture ecosystem. Since 2015, large corporations have been acting as customers ordering acceleration programs.
The second trend is that companies from the conventional industries such as metallurgy, mining, agriculture, and consumer goods industry more often search for innovative solutions. It’s advantageous for them to cooperate with start-ups; this way they get access to new technologies and it is easier for them to stand out from the competitors.
The companies from the traditional industries such as metallurgy, mining, agriculture, and consumer goods industry more often search for innovative solutions.
Considering both trends, six basic directions of corporate acceleration approved for the next three years have been launched in GenerationS-2017. These directions include increase in efficiency of agriculture and solutions in the field of new pharmaceuticals (Agro & MedTech); power energy (Power & Energy); banking and financial services (FinTech); metals processing, automated control of mining machinery (Mining & Metals); smart production (TechNet); fashion, design, entertainment and new media (Creative).
The main range of tracks can be extended based on the requests from partners. This was how th seventh track Dual Technologies came to exist in the accelerator — civil developments that can be used for the creation of military and special machinery. The exclusive license to launch Dual Technologies track in GenerationS-2017 is owned by RVC Infrafund.
Faberlic, CTC Media, Airbus, Krastsvetmet, Vimpelcom, NMZK Group, ODK-Saturn, RT-Business Development (Rostec Group), Voentelecom, RosElectronics, and Aviation Center named after Ilyushin, EFKO Group are this year among the partner corporations of GenerationS.
— Special nominations allow companies to get access to developments, discover future trends. Nevertheless, unlike the acceleration program, the nomination does not imply start-up trainings. Therefore, this opportunity is interesting for companies that are not ready for launching their own accelerator, but willing to start work with start-ups on the open market. This year, a special nomination — Digital Innovations — is represented by Vimpelcom; Biotechnology and genomics in the Agro-industrial complex appeared due to EFKO Group, special nominations of the task forces Marinet, Neuronet and Helsneth of the NTI (National Technology Initiative). Furthermore, in the final of GenerationS that will be held in April 2018, representatives of a university and a city submitting the biggest number of applications will be awarded a winner cup and prizes from the graduates.
Start-ups participate in the accelerator for the purpose of finding new growth points for business. They learn how to create a business model, prepare presentations for investors, get the first experience of public speeches. Entrepreneurs get access to face-to-face meetings with experts, business angels and representatives of corporations. Afterwards, they often continue cooperating with those they met at the accelerator. Many technological entrepreneurs are awarded grants from the Foundation for Assistance to Innovations, become Skolkovo residents.
Many technological entrepreneurs receive grants from the Foundation for Assistance to Innovations, become Skolkovo residents.
Last year, we started to analyse development of start-up graduates on a regular basis. This was how we found key issues the projects face with after the completion of accelerator. Primarily, this is a challenging access to investments for science-driven projects, difficulties in sales and lack of skilled personnel. Considering these conclusions, we form the necessary tools to support start-ups.
— Last year, the most demanded field among corporations was FinTech. Based on the result of GenerationS-2016, more than 50 deals were signed between the technological entrepreneurs, corporations and investors, 35 of them were related to financial technologies.
Applications for participation in 2017 program are still welcome. Following the collection of the first thousand of applications, we can conclude that the most demanded track for the second year in a row among start-ups is Creative, 29% of the projects would like to take part in it. Agro & MedTech ranked second with 27%; and TechNet with 16% of projects occupied the third place. The top three cities with the largest number of potential GenerationS participants are Moscow (31%), Ulyanovsk (9%) and Irkutsk (8%). Share of regional projects is growing; therefore, we expect that this, finally, will reach at least 65%.
Popularity of tracks varies from region to region. For example, the Agro & MedTech track every year enjoys the highest recognition in the Republic of Bashkortostan; about a third of the total number of applications are submitted there. This is due to the fact that there are a lot of pharmaceutical companies in this area, and half of the area is designed for agricultural purposes. Samara represents a very strong engineering and technical school, that is why TechNet is the most demanded track in this city.
— Of course, first of all, we are looking for interesting ideas and new technologies. When selecting projects for an accelerator, the main role is played by innovativeness of the development. However, in order to become a viable start-up, the idea should be revised from the point of view of business and market demand. The project should include commercialization and scaling plans - these parameters are necessary when filling in the basic application for participation in the accelerator.
It is also necessary to consider the fact that our partner — corporations order acceleration programs and a lot of things depend on the tasks relevant for them. The corporation experts evaluate compliance of technology with the company demands; the project team also plays an important role.
The project should include commercialization and scaling plans — these parameters are required when filling in the basic application for participation in the accelerator.
The main purpose of the accelerator is to help potentially successful start-ups to reach a new level of development. Team training process and project refinement is carried out under the tight schedule; the accelerator starts working in November and in April, we will select its winners and share information about the first deals. When a project team wants to reach the final, it should be ready for intensive training.
We also select and develop early-stage projects, by growing a new generation of start-ups for future accelerators. The pre-accelerator works as part of GenerationS-2017 for novice technological entrepreneurs. It will be composed of teams with projects that will get high scores during online assessment, but due to the early stage of development will not be able to participate in the main accelerator. The applicants will be offered to undergo online training and full-time educational program, fine-tune their start-ups until the next development level, which will increase their chances of participating in the next year cycle corporate accelerator.
— Every start-up of GenerationS can amaze and inspire. The experience of graduates shows that projects have the potential for renewal and adjustment of the entire industries. Thus, for example, the founders of RCML developed a programming language that can unite industrial robots of different manufacturers within a single network. We can also highlight Promobot, ExoAthlete, BioMicroGels, WiseSoil, NanoServ and many other projects among the most vivid technology projects.
Sometimes, ideas that seem to be very simple at first glance turn out to be promising. For example, Panda Money, a project for teaching of financial literacy to children and adults in a playing form. The Japanese government has already invited the guys to take part in a two-month acceleration program for the product launch on the Japanese market.
— In GenerationS, both hardware manufacturers and software developers occupy equal position. As I said previously, the most attractive for investors in 2016 was financial technology, and FinTech developers create mainly software. One of the winners of the track was a team that developed a trade robot for market analytics Cindicator as well as Yango — a mobile application that makes it possible to sell and purchase bonds from a smartphone.
Software has been the most demanded direction of the venture industry for quite a long time: investors are investing in applications, social networks, and services. Investing in hardware used to be mainly a state prerogative. In addition, enterprises from traditional sectors of the economy are more conservative, and the process of introducing innovations has not yet gained sufficient pace. However, "heavy" high-tech start-ups are in demand in the business environment. I am sure that thanks to the developing support programs, the Russian engineers will get access to the innovation infrastructure to implement their ideas.
RVC can boast of having projects aimed at promotion of the engineer profession, in particular, technological competitions. Contests involving students, postgraduates, university researchers and technological entrepreneurs help draw attention of developers to key technological areas. For the third year in a row, an NTI Olympiad has been held, which is an engineering team competition that gives an opportunity to the talented schoolchildren from all over Russia to "try on" the profession of an engineer, as well as to gain significant advantages when entering a university in profession-oriented specialties. RVC acts as its co-organizer.
— RVC is a Project Office of the National Technological Initiative. Five of the six tracks search for solutions for the benefit of NTI directions. Technet NTI task force acts as a co-organizer of the similarly-named track of advanced production technologies. Special nominations of NTI Marinet, Healthnet and Neuronet markets are also opened in the GenerationS-2017 accelerator. The best projects will be considered by the Task forces of directions to be included in the NTI roadmap; will get a bundled infrastructural, administrative and financial support. A list of directions for interaction between start-up teams and NTI task forces will be extended.
— GenerationS forms a stream of high-quality projects for the needs of investors and big businesses. Start-ups react to the trends more quickly, they create technologies and platforms contributing to digitalization of the economy. The accelerator’s role here is to help corporations to search for such solutions and integrate them into production and business processes. Start-ups, in turn, receive mentoring support, raise investments, and get involved in the cooperation networks.
Among the examples of "digital" start-ups one may point to Oz Forensics that helps to perform a quick document check. This is a new step in digitalization: the application detects a fake in images or scanned documents and helps tracking so as to understand who opened the document before. The technologies of the Robotics track finalist in GenerationS-2015, VisionLabs (face recognition systems), comes already into use in many areas from the banking products to HR and recruiting. In Mining & Metals, an AGE project (automation of geological exploration) has gone through acceleration. AGE helps mineral developers and service geological companies collect, process, and analyse primary geological information in online mode.