Ekaterina Petrova, Director of Corporate Accelerator GenerationS by RVC:
We often hear that Russian start-ups are technologically advanced. Still, they do not know how to turn ideas into money. That university scientists are engaged in high science and do not know how, and do not want to participate in the commercialisation of their inventions. To some extent, this opinion is correct. But, fortunately, more and more Russian innovators are thinking about how to "pack" their project to successfully tell "business angels" and corporations about themselves. However, corporations, in many ways, began to revise their principles of work with start-ups.
Most often, the founders of start-ups are gifted guys full of brilliant ideas. But they need mentoring help so that they can structure and present their ideas, find investors, and enter the market.
Over the past few years, in Russia, including with the help of Russian Venture Company (RVC) and the GenerationS accelerator, a lot of educational programs have been launched in different regions. Developers have more opportunities to find out what kind of marketing their start-ups need. Now in large cities, business incubators are operating — so-called prepared sites for start-ups: with workplaces and all the necessary technological equipment.
Start-ups in Russia began to understand that projects need to be finalized to receive venture investments, if there is a request for revision, rather than saying:
Now many teams, having worked with both Russian and international corporations, understand how to create a product that can be scaled.
Some time ago, we, as a start-up accelerator, ran into another problem: there was simply nobody there to offer start-ups to in Russia. For the development of technology, the country needs not only a market for ideas but also a market for customers. We started working with corporations, explaining the prospects of fruitful interaction with technology developers. We convinced large companies that they should spend a certain amount of resources and time to consider new technology ideas and provide support to those who were interested in them, and not just take a start-up note and wait for it to finish the product on its own.
At the moment, the creation of corporate venture capital funds has already become a trend. Acceleration and innovation have come fashionable in Russia. Now everything happens much faster than a few years ago. There were examples when a corporation that invested in a start-up exited from it and made a good profit. Or swallowed it, because its decision successfully fit into the business logic of the company.
So, in February 2018, MTS purchased 100% of MDTZK LLC (operates under the Ticketland.ru brand) for 3.3 billion roubles, as well as 78.2% of the Ponominalu.ru brand for 495 million roubles. The seller of the first company was represented by several investors and the iTech Capital Fund. In the acquisition of Ponominalu.ru, the sellers became the structures of its founders and the Buran Venture Capital Fund. In April 2019, Sberbank bought 100% of the online recruiter Rabota.ru for about 500 million roubles. In October 2018, Yandex became the sole owner of Edadil start-up, increasing its stake in it from 10% to 100%, spending 233 million roubles on it.
Another exciting feature of innovative Russian projects is their unpretentiousness. If they have already decided to enter the market, they are doing their best to succeed. For example, an average start-up in Israel immediately values itself at a high price, and its representatives will not have negotiations with a particular client 5–10 times — one round is usually enough. Our start-ups, even if they have unique technologies, today are trying to find the optimal approach and integrated solution, in which they will earn money, and the client will be comfortable working with them. Our innovators are moving in the right direction. International venture investors, whether from Singapore, China, or Europe, are now interested in working with start-ups from Russia.
At the same time, start-ups do not need to leave Russia. For example, graduation of GenerationS, a Perm-based RCML company, created a universal controller for industrial robots and entered the US and China markets with this product. The company also collaborates with German Kuka Robotics, Swedish ABB, and other manufacturers of industrial robots. The headquarters of RCML was established in Perm and remained there.
Our common goal is to make sure that many high-quality developments appear in Russia on the one hand, and so that an increasing number of corporations interact with them on the other. It is necessary to stimulate the creation of new ideas and tools. Now corporations are interested, for example, in hackathons — this is a competition of specialists, within the framework of which a specific technical task is set, which must be solved by the end of the event. There should be as many hackathons in Russia as possible, including with the participation of students and schoolchildren.
We expect that the number of technology developers, venture capital investors, "business angels" in Russia will grow every year, and the level of state support will increase. In particular, the number of events aimed at business acquaintance and communication of the founders of technology start-ups with potential investors is sure to increase. This will increase the level of trust between them and will help the market to truly breakthrough technological solutions.