RVC, Russia’s state-owned fund of funds for innovation, supports a variety of initiatives and programs aimed at developing the country’s innovation ecosystem. Among its major initiatives over the past few years has been GenerationS, a giant acceleration program aimed at matching innovation ideas and startups with corporate needs. In this interview Mikhail Antonov, RVC’s Deputy CEO and Innovation Infrastructure Development Director, provides details about this program and its achievements to date.
Unfortunately, major Russian companies are not as actively cooperate with technological entrepreneurs and startups as foreign corporations. International giants – General Electric, Google, Procter & Gamble and others – are constantly searching and introducing breakthrough technologies as a part of open innovation model they deploy. Russian big business is still far from world standards for a number of reasons. These include lack of understanding where to start, how to develop entrepreneurship culture within the corporation, how to build connections to innovation ecosystem. In general, corporations are very conservative and reluctant to any changes. We established GenerationS as a platform to involve Russian corporations into innovations through building customized acceleration programs. Year after year, we see how corporations are growing interest in startups, and the number of GenerationS partner companies expands.
GenerationS is organized by RVC which is a government agency aimed to develop innovation economy in Russia. Since its inception, GenerationS has been realized as a state-public initiative where both state and big corporations share responsibility for design and execution of each acceleration program, both financially and operationally. Besides RVC, there are other state organizations participating in GenerationS. They are Skolkovo Foundation, the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE) that provide grants and other non-monetary support to our finalists.
Vilnius Tech Park is one of the partners of GenerationS. Under the federal start-up accelerator GenerationS, the tech park established a special nomination, Vilnus Tech Park Award. Nomination involved granting certificates to startups who are ready to scale up to Europe and the USA. The winners received workspace in the tech park, as well as legal, mentoring, and marketing support.
GenerationS is equally open to Russian and foreign companies. Over 150 government organizations and private companies have been involved in the accelerator's operations since 2013. Many major international corporations – SAP, Visa, Microsoft, Raiffeisenbank and others – are partners of GenerationS-2016. Speaking about startups, this year (2017) we received applications from 30 countries, a third more than in 2016.
We expect these numbers to grow either in terms of international applications and International corporations searching for strong Russian technology teams.
We strive to develop cooperation with all of our Russian and foreign partners. For us, ideal partners are those that do innovations not as an one-time exercise , but those who are committed to develop open innovation model as part of their business strategy. In particular, SAP, one of the market leaders in business applications, has been partner with GenerationS since its launch and annualy selects best projects to introduce them into corporate partner ecosystem. Also, SAP is a very good example of cooperation going beyond GenerationS. We do many joint events where SAP shares its best practices of building corporate venture fund and other open innovation tools. Microsoft has been GenerationS' partner for several years, while providing expertise and infrastructure to the most promising startup teams.
In 2013, GenerationS was the first accelerator introduced in Russia as a new format and in early 2017 we are celebrating 20 acceleration programs each being a unique pool of partners, investors, experts and, most importantly, startups. Since that time, few dozens accelerators appeared in Russia. As a market leader, we are doing a lot to establish acceleration culture in Russia and performance standards.
Every year, at GenerationS we are trying to identify new challenges in Russian startup ecosystem. In 2014, we introduced first specialized accelerators in Biotech, Industrial HighTech, Cleantech and IT. As a result, a number of private industrial accelerators were set in Russia which gave an impetus for private VC investors to invest into more diversified deals, not just into Internet projects. In 2015 and 2016, GenerationS is focused on helping Russian corporations to become a part of innovation ecosystem. Seven corporate acceleration programs were run in 2015, 8 are launched in 2016 in cooperation with major Russian corporations. GenerationS turned to be effective tool with many impacts on Russian innovation ecosystem. To name just few, it’s a community of about 11000 Russian startups getting access to all opportunities to grow and become sustainable.
GenerationS became a platform helping any entity (university, corporation, regional business incubator) to build their own acceleration program where we provide access to project expertise, mentors network, IT infrastructure and our regional network. On a regional level, GenerationS provides methodological and financial support for people and organizations dealing with startup generation and incubation which helps to build project pipeline for GenerationS accelerators. Today the geography of our projects is not limited to Russia: accelerator covers over 240 cities and 30 countries, including Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, France and the United States. Every year we observe increasing number of applications for participation in GenerationS. In 2016 in a start-up accelerator received 4,237 applications from tech entrepreneurs, which is 65% more than in 2015. 611 teams became participants in GenerationS accelerator programs since the launch. The volume of investments in GenerationS startups amounted to RUB 1.13 billion, and total business valuation reached RUB 2.2 billion.
Though we grow older and more experienced, we are entering our 5th year as a startup ready to be open, agile and totally cooperative. We believe that together with our partners and startups we change our world and make our lives more comfortable and more efficient.