Startup Village is the Skolkovo Innovation Center’s signature event, bringing together participants from Russia and around the globe – startup owners, investors, partners, corporate figures, mentors, technology experts, and many more. This year’s Startup Village, titled “Packing for Mars – the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Innovations,” takes place in offline and online formats from May 24-25 and has attracted 10,000 participants from 80 countries, 200 speakers, 4500 startups, and 1000 investors. The co-organizers of Startup Village are the Skolkovo Foundation, VEB.RF, and Roscosmos.
"Poekhali!" Startup Village 2021 opening ceremony. Screenshot: Sk.ru
Why is this year’s Startup Village special? 2021 marks sixty years since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to go into space, and it is on this basis that this year’s event is space-themed. It is also two years since the Startup Village took place in an offline format, and a lot has changed in that time. The digital transformation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic is noticeable both in the event format and some of the technologies put forward by the startup participants and the discussion topics.
Over the two days, an array of events is taking place covering topics such as digital transformation, new trends in Russia’s venture capital market, “quantum startups,” pitch sessions by space industry startups, and many others. Visitors can also view startup developments exhibited at 20 pavilions (computer vision platform, environmental footprint monitoring platform, AI facial recognition, etc.); startups also have the opportunity to meet with mentors, network, and conduct pitches.
Speaking at the opening ceremony titled “Poekhali!” (let’s go!) - the title being Gagarin’s famous call before his launch into orbit - were deputy chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and chairman of the board of trustees of the Skolkovo Foundation Dmitry Medvedev, chairman of VEB.RF Igor Shuvalov, chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich, chairman of the board of directors of Skolkovo Ventures Pekka Viljakainen, and the director-general of Roscosmos State Space Corporation Dmitry Rogozin. Alexander Chernov, the senior vice president of public, social, and educational policy at the Skolkovo Foundation, moderated the ceremony.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Screenshot: Sk.ru
Dmitry Medvedev, who was instrumental in creating Skolkovo Innovation Center, stated that “recently, in this difficult epoch in which we live, the demand for startups working on different issues has become apparent to all; in the end, they are responsible for technological development, and that is very important for us right now. It is startups that are working on such important areas as medicine, medical technologies, ensuring the operation of the healthcare system, including individual challenges that each person faces, issues related to education development, educational technologies, information security, and a whole range of other important areas.”
Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich. Screenshot: Sk.ru.
Arkady Dvorkovich stated that although many technologies at Startup Village are space-related, all ideas are very every day and designed to improve life.
“Everything is easy-to-use, everything is for the individual, and is for people who want to use technologies to improve their lives. We can do it, and so can you. I am certain that together with our friends, colleagues, partners, and above all, within the VEB.RF ecosystem, with the government, and Roscosmos, which is not up in the clouds but firmly on the ground, we will do this. This week, two of the most important events in the world are taking place – Startup Village and the Ice Hockey World Championship, which is why I am in hockey uniform today to support our hockey team. I am here with you to root for your victory and for all of us.”
Dmitry Rogozin, director-general of Roscosmos State Space Corporation. Screenshot: Sk.ru
Mr. Rogozin stated that “according to experts, the space sector is valued at 350-400 million dollars. In talking about development, by 2030, that is in 8-9 years, it will be valued at $1.5 billion.”
Pekka Viljakainen, chairman of the board of directors of Skolkovo Ventures. Screenshot: Sk.ru
Pekka Viljakainen, one of Skolkovo’s veterans, said that “when we started this journey nine years ago, there was a lot of doubt as to why we needed another forum in Russia. Why do we need another forum for startups? This is not a forum; this is a movement; this is our main event of the year where people can get connected. Business is not just about science and technology; successful business is about having lots of personal connections. Startup Village and the Startup Tour across Russia were created to build those connections, and I really hope that you will use these coming two days to build connections. Recruiting people, buying companies, selling companies, making innovations, and copying ideas are all a part of the entrepreneur's DNA and the DNA of Startup Village. With these words, once again, I wish you a fruitful two days. This is not bureaucracy; this is business. That’s it!”
Igor Shuvalov, chairman of VEB.RU. Screenshot: Sk.ru
Igor Shuvalov stated that “a coordinated system of R&D centers provides support to business at all stages of – from idea to IPO.” He went on to add that “this is an ideology. You are all here because there is no other way to attract people if there is no atmosphere, especially innovation. The organizers promised to give us spacesuits since this event is dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the first man in space. We were not given spacesuits, but I hope that instead of spacesuits, we will witness serious results from Startup Village and that business will be successful.”