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2018-09-24 05:10

Russian startups are heading east

"VEB Innovations together with the Skolkovo Foundation are launching a contest for Russian startups East Bound. Participants will present their projects to investors from India, Japan and the Middle East at three pitch sessions. Each pitch will result in a winner.

On October 15-17, the Open Innovations Forum will be held in Moscow, within the framework of which pitch sessions will be held. Seven startups will be selected for each of the three pitch sessions. The sessions will be organized according to the geographical principle: the participants of each group will be evaluated by large investors from one of the three regions - Japan, India and the Middle East. The competition will be open to Russian high-tech companies with annual revenue of $1 million, offering products in the field of information and aerospace technologies, telecommunications, biomedicine and neurointerfaces, robotics, solutions in the field of smart cities, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

"The competition covers all the above spheres, all of which have high priority both in our country and in the world. At the same time, there is certainly a certain industry specificity depending on the foreign partner: for example, for Japan the central themes are the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, and contractors in the Middle East are focused on energy-efficient technologies and solutions for a smart city", - told the correspondent of ComNews Yuri Saprykin, the vice-president for regional and international development of the "Skolkovo" Foundation.

The press service of VEB Innovations reported that at least five or six investors with capital from $100 million to $1 billion are expected to attend the sessions, including representatives of the Japanese venture fund UMJ, the Indian company Srei Infrastructure Finance, the Jordanian Sadeen Group, and one of the largest funds of the Middle East Aramco. The total investment pool proposed by the organizers of the contest for the best Russian projects is $50 million, but the jury members can increase the volume if they wish. It is expected that the size of the "average check" of each investor will be about $7-10 million", - told the press service.

"One of the main tasks of VEB Innovations is to provide the most promising Russian projects with the first springboard from which they will start conquering the market. We help them to get off to a good start and work in close cooperation with the Russian Export Center, which is engaged in further support of companies at the stage of going abroad. In this sense, the East is one of the priority and most promising areas. Many high-tech Russian startups are now able to conquer global markets. To do this, they need only a small push and support of strong players in the target countries. The East Bound project helps to solve this problem and to present our startups to large foreign businesses and investment funds that are ready to invest millions of dollars in high technologies. This event will lay the foundation for future partnerships across the East and allow us to strengthen our pipeline with additional projects," said Oleg Teplov, General Director of VEB Innovations.

Oleg Teplov told ComNews that India is a strategic partner of VEB Innovations. According to him, Japan and Middle East countries have a developed venture infrastructure and show increased interest in attracting technologies from the market of open innovations to solve problems aimed at modernization of their own economies. "We believe that Russian technology companies can make a significant contribution to the development of these regions. The work of Russian companies in foreign markets will allow them not only to significantly increase revenue growth, but also to form the necessary competences for launching future successful enterprises. If this event is successful, we will expand our geography," says Oleg Teplov.

Yuri Saprykin, explaining the decision to select startups for the East and Asia, said that over the past year, partners from these countries have been most active in scouting Russian technologies (along with China: a separate forum "Investment in Innovation" is dedicated to working with Chinese partners within the framework of the Open Innovations Forum). "It is relatively easier for Russian innovative enterprises to attract financing from Asian and Middle Eastern countries. In addition, among the companies participating in the "Skolkovo" there are projects initially focused on the Asian markets - first of all, they are residents of the Far Eastern branch of the fund," he added.

The Skolkovo press service reported that among the companies that have submitted applications, experts will choose the most promising participants. "The main criteria will be readiness to export and enter foreign markets, as well as competitiveness in the world arena. The best startups, who will be determined by the jury based on the results of each pitch, will receive the main prize - a letter of interest from the investor, valid for six months from the date of issue", - explained the press service.

Yuriy Saprykin, speaking about the involvement of Eastern businessmen, said that work with investors from North-East and South Asia, as well as from the Middle East countries is carried out by the Skolkovo Foundation and its subsidiaries (for example, LLC Skolkovo - Venture Investments) on a regular basis. "The principle of sarafnogo radio is working more and more often: Eastern investors themselves come to us, as they receive positive signals from foreign partners of the fund that the Skolkovo Innovation Center is the largest hub of high-tech companies in Russia. Within the framework of large international technological events, such as Startup Village and Open Innovations, we traditionally try to present the results of such cooperation in larger formats", - comments Yuri Saprykin.

"This is not the first time that VEB Innovations has taken a course in the Asian direction. Oleg Teplov says that one of the first projects of VEB Innovations was the creation of the Russian-Indian Private Equity Fund in the field of innovations and technologies - Viman Capital - jointly with the leading infrastructure and financial holding Srei Infrastructure Finance Limited (SREI). "The fund's capacity is $100 million, and in the future it is planned to increase the volume up to $200 million," he adds.

Oleg Teplov says Eastern investors are interested in attracting Russian technology start-ups. "There are already successful cases. Our task is to multiply and scale these cases, which is why we are holding a competition," he explains. "The Middle East and North Africa is a resource-rich region, which is why it did not immediately become involved in the high-tech race, yielding leadership to North America, Europe and East Asia. However, the statistics of recent years show an active growth in the number of high-tech companies, as well as private and corporate investors interested in supporting innovation. The region faces a significant number of challenges, including the need to modernize transport and logistics systems, and to shift to cleaner energy sources. These challenges can only be met by attracting and supporting high-tech projects," says Oleg Teplov.

As far as Japan is concerned, Oleg Teplov specifies that during the whole XX century it was one of the leading technological drivers. "Today, the industrial landscape in Japan is dominated by large corporations, which are reluctant to attract open innovation. In the 21st century, the high rate of global technological development requires a more flexible approach based on the open market of innovation as an important source of economic and social development. Accordingly, today the Japanese government is committed to implementing the ambitious "Society 5.0" program. In this new society, all solutions will be related to IoT technologies and a comprehensive approach to the application of innovations will be implemented, which will significantly improve the quality of life," Oleg Teplov shared with ComNews' correspondent observations.

Speaking about the interest of Eastern investors in Russian startups, Yuri Saprykin explains that in Asian and Middle Eastern countries there has always been interest in Russian fundamental and applied research, primarily in the mathematical and engineering fields. "Now our partners understand that on the basis of these researches a large number of high-tech companies have emerged and see a significant potential in the use of their own long tradition of entrepreneurship for the commercialization of Russian developments in local markets," he concludes.

Leonid Delitsyn, an analyst at Finam Group, told ComNews that there was, of course, less interest from investors from the East in the ICT sector, where Finam venture funds operate, than from startups in Silicon Valley.

"Now, as the US regulators tighten control over investors, interest in our startups should grow. At the same time, Japanese investors - as well as in other countries - were interested in mature companies of the TMT-sector, but, perhaps, it was connected with the interests of specific investors and did not characterize Japanese investments in general. Chinese and Korean companies are traditionally active in hiring university graduates, they visit scientific institutions with great interest and, as a rule, look for projects or developments in specific areas, for example, in order to develop an alternative to any Western technology protected by patents. The recent joint venture between Alibaba and Mail.Ru and MegaFon will in fact be the first major project similar to the way investors from the East bought stakes in Silicon Valley companies. Israeli investors were most noticeable in attracting Russian capital for their own startups, although they also invested in Russian projects," explains the analyst.

Speaking about the orientation of Russian startups, Leonid Delitsyn notes that China and Vietnam were popular among Russian entrepreneurs, although India and Indochina were also considered. "This was primarily due to the size of the markets, the high population and the low poverty rate. In Vietnam, the Coc Coc Coc search engine, created by Russians, managed to occupy a significant market share. In the countries of South-East Asia, there is a network of online advertising Yengo, also of Russian origin," he adds.

The East Bund startup competition is not the first project of Russian companies, focused on Asian countries. Recall that recently RVC in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers launched the Export Accelerator of the National Technology Initiative.

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