Five interesting companies from Russia’s Skolkovo Startup Village

At the Skolkovo Startup Village near Moscow last week entrepreneurs competed for the chance to win 900,000 rubles to help expand their fledgling companies and set them on their way to fame and fortune.

Startups pitched ideas on a range of topics including healthcare, the environment, energy, communications, retail and consumer products.

Of most relevance to our particular niche was the ‘digital technologies for mass market’ session, which threw up some interesting ideas and some that I can’t ever see catching on. 

The latter included an attachable mobile keyboard called Octodon and a new smartphone flash attachment that apparently improves your selfies.

If you want to find out more about the Skolkovo project then check out my article on Russia’s plan to turn it into the new Silicon Valley, or read on for details of some of the more interesting companies on show at the Startup Village…

Can Moscow’s Skolkovo Innovation Centre really rival Silicon Valley?

The Skolkovo Innovation Centre hosted its annual Startup Village this week, a two-day celebration of Russia’s new tech and innovation community that’s being built from scratch on the outskirts of Moscow.

It was the culmination of a startup competition involving young entrepreneurs from 27 cities, with the ultimate winner taking home a 900,000 ruble investment.

The organisers put on a vibrant, welcoming event and I was impressed by enthusiasm on display from the young attendees even if some of the pitches were somewhat underwhelming.

The Startup Village had a typically techy ambience, with brightly coloured flags, beanbags, table tennis and quirky statues the order of the day.

It was a scene unlike any other I experienced during my brief stay in Moscow, though the dynamic, youthful atmosphere was broken momentarily on Tuesday when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made a brief appearance with a discreet yet unnerving army of undercover police.

Russia open its doors to homespun and foreign entrepreneurs

Behind Lenin’s Tomb in Moscow there is a small door embedded in the Kremlin Wall where Soviet rulers used to duck through on their way to presiding over the annual May Day Parade.

The door is small and, according to a Russian soldier I met there a decade ago, it was deliberately so because of Stalin’s diminutive stature.

After all, if he was about to acknowledge the size of his huge army, the last thing he needed was to be reminded of was his lack of height.  

Rather like Stalin’s door, the, er, window of opportunity for Russian entrepreneurs has been similarly narrow. Inventors and creators were employed by the State and any resulting IP or patents would be owned by the State.