Improvements in this version of Startup Village: Record crowds, new setting, creative catering.
Like the leading smartphone apps, Startup Village is constantly evolving. The third edition of Russia and Eastern Europe’s biggest startup event is no exception.
Organizers expect in excess of 10,000 guests to the June 2-3 festival of entrepreneurship at the Skolkovo Innovation Center, chief among whom will be traditional patron Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister.
“All the key ingredients of the Skolkovo ecosystem will be present at Startup Village: Government, big business, startups, students and professors, investors and entrepreneurs,” says Skolkovo’s vice president for innovations, Vasily Belov.
“All of these elements are critical for an innovation environment to thrive. Startup Village is a perfect example of how these stakeholders interact. You have business leaders telling governors what’s needed to improve the investment climate in the regions. You have scientists informing startups of the latest technological developments that can be integrated into the next product line. You have multinationals like Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and Panasonic announcing to the local tech community what innovations they are looking for,” Belov adds.
“There is nobody who does not benefit in some way from these interactions. The benefit to the economy that this will bring cannot be underestimated,” he says.
Startup Village producer Alina Suslova explains how this year’s event will differ from the two previous editions.
“This year we are expecting record crowds, so we decided to move away from the Hypercube and hold Startup Village in the picturesque grounds around the Technopark Office Center. We’ll have pavilions around the lake and the main stage next to the Startup Bazaar, so it will be just as easy to navigate as the last two years, but perhaps a bit prettier,” she said.
The Main Stage at Startup Village at the Technopark Office Center. Photo: sk.ru
“What we are striving for is the kind of laid-back atmosphere that you get at a music festival. We want our visitors to roam to their heart’s content, to make new, hopefully useful, contacts, or simply to enjoy the company of like-minded people. We are removing every barrier imaginable. If people are enjoying themselves, they are more likely to be productive. That’s our guiding principle for absolutely every aspect of Startup Village, from the layout of the event to the catering; from the music to the volunteers. We really hope our guests will feel that and we can’t wait to get started,” Suslova said.
Speaking of the catering operation, at Startup Village 2014, only a modest culinary ensemble of sandwiches and muffins was on offer to the 10,000 guests, yet this year, the food court at the Skolkovo Innovation Center will boast everything from noodles to pastries and burgers to salads; from kebabs to pies and pasta to smoothies. And, this year, there will be donuts.
“This will be the most interesting foodcourt in three years of the Startup Village,” says Elena Pugacheva, one of the key organizers of Startup Village and catering supervisor at the event.
The lake behind the Skolkovo Technopark Office Center. Photo: sk.ru
Startup Village is a two-day event held at the Skolkovo headquarters just west of Moscow that’s high on the feel-good factor. Its purpose is to help startup businesses to get off the ground and encourage the creation of new ones. It matches new technology with investors and, more broadly, aims to serve as a catalyst for economic diversification.
While it is traditionally split into three parts - the conference, the Startup Bazaar and the pitch sessions – Startup Village also features all manner of master-classes, workshops, consultation events, investment forums and other activities.
The conference is to be held across three stages – the Main Stage, the Patio Stage and the Workshops Stage - and headlined by a diverse range of speakers from Skolkovo president Victor Vekselberg to AvtoVAZ CEO Bo Andersson, from former F1 champion Mika Hakkinen to TechCrunch editor Mike Butcher.
Across 11 separate forums, Startup Village will host 120 panel discussions, round tables, mentor sessions and master-classes, kicking off with a debate on “Defining the Future of the Digital World” and ending with “Clash of the titans: How big companies can and should benefit from innovative startups.”
Industry-specific round tables will also feature in six categories: IT (B2B and B2C), efficient energy, biomed, industrial technologies and space and telecoms. An example of an IT B2B round table is “Innovation approaches to defending against cyber threats.”
Those tracks will serve as the basis for the pitch sessions, where 350 startups will compete for prize money and Skolkovo residency by pitching their product to an expert panel in five-minute presentations. Those companies that make the finals on day two will each receive 300,000 rubles for doing so. Prizes for the top three places are 3 million, 2 million and 1 million rubles, respectively, while Skolkovo partners and other big companies are offering separate prizes for the innovations that impress them the most. The top startups will be offered Skolkovo residency without going through the application process.
A good portion of the startups have traveled long distances to compete in Moscow after winning their respective rounds during the Startup Tour, which visited 12 cities in Russia and the CIS between February and April including Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, Almaty and Minsk.
The Startup Bazaar, meanwhile, will showcase 70 of Skolkovo’s top resident companies in an interactive exhibition. Visitors are free to wander, mingle and peruse, testing out prototype gadgets for themselves and getting briefed on the latest offerings from the science community.
Other features of Startup Village 2015:
Adding to the richness of Startup Village, each of Skolkovo’s five clusters (IT, biomed, nuclear, energy and space) has a detailed program of events at their respective pavilions, with their own list of guests and speakers. The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology will be out in force, with some among the first year of graduating students set to meet Prime Minister Medvedev.
Every year, Skoltech takes an active part at Startup Village. There will also be presentations by leading researchers including President Ed Crawley, professor Dzmitry Tsetserukou, Alessandro Golkar and others, and a working session of IPOCA – International Proof of Concept Centers Association; among other things.
Ekaterina Inozemsteva, Skolkovo’s strategy director, said Startup Village’s appeal lies in the face that it is of value to a very wide range of stakeholders.
“Come to Startup Village as an investor, and you get first pick of the very best technology out of Russia and the CIS. Come as a startup, and that investor could be coming for you,” she said.
“But it’s not all about matching investors with startups. Startup Village is a great knowledge-sharing forum. It doesn’t matter what stage of development you are at as an entrepreneur – you’ll find advice about how to move forward. Maybe all you have is a great idea. At Startup Village you can find out how to create a company. Maybe you’ve developed new software with your friend in the basement of your parent’s house. We’ll help you turn it into a commercially viable product. Maybe you’re already a Skolkovo resident and you want to enter the Chinese market with energy-saving technology. We’ll help you register a patent in China,” noted Inozemtseva.
“At Startup Village you can participate in panel discussions, attend workshops and master-classes, or watch hundreds of pitches by startups who are trying to get their technology out there. Whatever question you have about starting a business in Russia or abroad, about investing in Russia or abroad, Startup Village will have the answer.”
The detailed program of Startup Village can be accessed here. Live updates from Startup Village will be provided on the sk.ru website, where a live video stream of the will also be available.