Central regions | Finance, business

State fund seeks to develop Russian Apple

3 Oct '14
The Internet Initiatives Development Fund, set up in Russia last year, is expanding its area of interest. Initially established to support Internet start-ups, IIDF now prepares to invest in a range of new fields, such as wearable devices (‘smart’ watches, glasses, etc.), the Internet-of-things (including ‘smart’ household appliances, web-connected sensors, etc.), and big data processing.

“I think this country still has the potential to develop a new Apple. As before, we will focus on early-stage projects,” IIDF Director Kirill Varlamov told the Russian daily Izvestia.

The Internet Initiatives Development Fund was set up in March 2013 by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, an entity established two years before by then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to support socially significant business projects. The new fund was originally designed to back entrepreneurship in the Web and now has a reported $200m to invest.

According to the Fund, it’s now too early to predict how many projects in the above new areas IIDF will have to evaluate, and how much money will be pumped into these. A company seeking support from IIDF is expected to be at least 50% owned by Russian residents.

The Fund is reported to have decided to extend its coverage after it studied a new comprehensive report on global tech trends. “Cloud, social and mobile technologies, big data and IT ecosystems—all these markets have been growing thus far and will continue to grow in the future,” Mr. Varlamov said.

According to an MIT Technology Review Business Report, by 2020 the number of web-connected ‘smart’ gadgets capable of exchanging data without man’s interference is expected to surpass the number of web-connected smartphones and computers.

Arkady Moreinis, a Russian investor in IT projects, thinks IIDF’s most recent move is quite logical. “If we look at U.S. accelerator programs, we will see that they had these areas on the radar as far back as two or three years ago. This is a general trend. Those involved in the Web have realized that the Internet is wider than it seems,” he said.
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