Government representatives, business leaders, VCs and entrepreneurs gather to discuss innovation and technology
MENLO PARK, Calif. – Russian and American innovators and investors connected. More than 1,000 participants, including government representatives, business leaders, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in the technology sector, gathered at the second annual Russian Innovation Week Conference to explore investment opportunities and build strategic partnerships on September 17 in Boston and on September 19-20 in California’s Silicon Valley.
Russian Innovation Week was established in 2012 to create a platform to build Russian and American business cooperation, to demonstrate the potential of the Russian innovation sector, and to assist Russian investors and venture funds reach out to potential American partners. RIW is an annual event presented by the Russian Innovation Center, comprised of three Russian development institutions - RUSNANO, RVC and the Skolkovo Foundation. The center exists to represent Russia in the U.S. and to build trust with local communities. This year’s event was supported by the Russian-American Bilateral Presidential Commission’s working group on innovation.
Speaking at the kick-off event in Boston, top executives of the three organizing companies supported the importance of building business relations between Russia and the U.S. in the technology sector and pointed out the immense opportunities yet to be explored through Russian Innovation Week.
“This is a platform … which gives us the opportunity in the future to be guarantors that this will not be a one-day relation but should be a long-term collaboration with a win-win structure where people from both sides can exchange ideas, exchange knowledge and create the right, good trust atmosphere between two countries,” noted Viktor Vekselberg, Chairman of the Board of the Skolkovo Foundation.
“We see it (RIW) as a very important tool to establish relations between the Russian companies and the U.S. businesses in technology interested in global cooperation, and in using the technological skills, expertise and ideas coming from Russia for the global markets. And the U.S. market is definitely the key for, the door-opener for Russian companies’ entry to the global market. I think that this technological cooperation is actually a real win-win situation for Russian and American businesses,” said Igor Agamirzian, CEO of RVC.
Five years ago, there were some 15 truly active Russian venture funds, but today, new funds are appearing much more frequently in the Russian venture scene.
“It’s less than five years when Russia started to move and started to develop its innovative sector,” said Anatoly Chubais, Chairman of the Executive Board of RUSNANO. “And in five years, we’ve achieved these results, not only RUSNANO, but Skolkovo, RVC, independent Russian startups… Now after five years of this activity, I’m absolutely sure we’ve just picked up the low-hanging fruits, but the potential is absolutely enormous - And it’s much more than the current cooperation between Russia and the United States in the energy sector,” continued Chubais.
Speakers from political and economic backgrounds alike emphasized the emerging opportunities in the technology sector between Russia and the U.S., and the key role played by Russian Innovation Week as a beneficial platform to showcase these opportunities. They also stressed the importance of solid business relations between their countries, and the separation of business and politics.
Michael A. McFaul, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Russian Federation, made a special trip to speak at the Silicon Valley conference. “Why I’m here and why I made the effort to fly here from Moscow is to see the connectivity between some of the smartest people in the world: Russians and Americans getting together to find creative ideas, creative solutions, creative investment opportunities that will make America and Russia better off.”
“From our perspective, from the Obama Administration’s perspective, we want to see more Russian and American trade and investment. We think that more connectivity between businesses will make for a better relationship between the United States and Russia. And so the president calls it a multi-dimensional relationship. We don’t just want to talk about nuclear weapons; we want to talk about business; we want to talk about innovation. And this will help to create a more stable, long-term relationship between our two countries,” stressed Ambassador McFaul.
“Russian Innovation Week is really an opportunity for us to connect and collaborate, and build partnerships and relationships between Russia and the United States in order to improve economic development and innovation around the world. Innovation and entrepreneurship are becoming an increasingly important part of our foreign policy agenda around economic development because the fact is, innovation is happening all over,” echoed Lorraine Hariton, U.S. State Department Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs.
“…I think as Ambassador McFaul mentioned, our economic relationship should be separate from our political relationship. We are building good partnerships. All the connections here, they translate into relationships, into investments, into sales opportunities, into strategic partnership opportunities. We’re moving those things ahead. And the people who are in this room are making that happen,” continued Special Representative Hariton.
Speaking about the relationship between Russia and the U.S. in the technology sector, Mark Shmulevich, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation, spoke along similar lines: “I’m quite sure that we need to enhance and develop this relationship because the IT industry needs to be global; it is always global; it’s becoming more and more global. And cooperation between Russian and American companies will get more and more advanced and developed. Russian Innovation Week can help boost this cooperation.”
From a venture capitalist’s perspective, Alexandra Johnson, Managing Director of DFJ VTB Capital Aurora, explained: “The US-Russia business relationship - I would say it’s solid, because it’s not influenced by the political moves or subjective people’s opinions. It’s whether you have a deal or you don’t have a deal. And what we see is a lot of talented entrepreneurs, who - if their businesses make sense - really treat the world as the global marketplace.”
“I think it’s important to bring the sort of new Russia together with the ever-evolving United States in these two places so that people can exchange ideas, learn from each other,” said Pitch Johnson, Founding Partner, Asset Management Company. “The importance of it is bringing people together to learn about each other, learn where their economies and their countries are heading in the business and entrepreneurial sense.”
Startup pitches were interwoven throughout the week’s agenda to exhibit the potential of the Russian innovation sector, and to assist Russian investors and venture funds reach out to American partners while Russian technology companies gain access to sources of funding and international sales channels.
More than 50 startups from Russia in the IT, cleantech and biotech industries – winners of the RIW Startup Track Competition - joined the Startup Track presentation sessions to pitch their concepts at the conferences, and to connect with potential investors and other trailblazers.
Representatives from the Russian startups raved at the opportunities at hand:
The Conference Sponsors are the Moscow Innovation Development Centre, The Department of Science, Industrial Policy and Entrepreneurship of Moscow, Sberbank, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and The US Russia Foundation.
Conference Partners include the Association of Innovative Regions of Russia (AIRR), Almaz Capital, Churchill Club, GMIC, Licensing Executives Society (LES) Silicon Valley Chapter, MassChallenge, Russian Venture Capital Association (RVCA), Russoft, Startup Monthly, Skoltech, SVForum, Torrey Pines Investment, US-Russia Business Council and Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (WEST).
Media Partners include East-West Digital News and The Next Web.
For more information, visit www.riw-usa.com/partners.
RUSNANO is a $10 billion state-backed investment fund headquartered in Moscow, Russia. With a primary focus on late-stage venture capital and private equity deals in nanotechnology, the company invests in life sciences, microelectronics, cleantech, energy efficiency and advanced materials. Founded in 2007, RUSNANO has invested in more than 100 high-tech companies from Russia, the U.S., U.K., Israel, France, Germany, China and other countries across the world. RUSNANO’s interests in the U.S. and Canada are represented by RUSNANO USA which oversees the firm’s cooperation with American and Canadian companies and implements due diligence of potential portfolio companies. RUSNANO USA also facilitates the marketing of Russian nanotechnology products in the global market. For more information, visit http://en.rusnano.com.
RVC is a government fund of venture capital funds, a development institute of the Russian Federation and one of Russia's key tools in building its own national innovation system. RVC’s capital base is more than 30 billion rubles, which is 100 percent owned by the Federal Agency for the Management of State Property. RVC has established 13 funds reaching a total value of 26.4 billion rubles. RVC’s stake in these funds is more than 16 billion rubles. RVC has invested a total of 12.1 billion rubles in 139 innovation companies. For more information, visit www.rusventure.ru/en/.
About the Skolkovo Foundation
The Skolkovo Scientific Center for the Development and Commercialization of New Technologies was established on the initiative of the Russian President in September 2010. Its purpose is to mobilize resources for contemporary applied research in Russia and to create an enabling environment for the implementation of scientific development in five key areas of technology: energy and energy efficiency, space, biomedicine, nuclear technology and computer technology. The project involves the creation of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), research institutions, business incubators, a center for technology transfer and commercialization, representative offices of international companies and R&D centers, as well as residential and social infrastructure. It aims to create a model for the effective development of other innovation centers elsewhere in Russia. The Skolkovo Innovation Center is governed by special legislation that offers special economic conditions for residents and employees. For more information, visit www.sk.ru.
For more information about the organizers, RUSNANO, RVC and the Skolkovo Foundation, please contact:
Head of Media Relations
+7 (495) 988 5388, ext. 1933
+7 (495) 777 0104, ext. 355
Director, Press Office
+7 (495) 967 0148, ext. 2260