Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor
The global financial crisis has put a chill on Russia’s high-flying profile as the hot BRIC country investment. While the pace of investment here has slowed, Russian scientists, engineers, IT experts and others have continued to develop innovative technology. Although Russia is still considered a risky place to do business, the European Tech Tour Association (ETT) has been showcasing Russian ingenuity via “Tech Tours” to encourage investors to re-focus their attention on Russia’s potential. Marchmont spoke with Konstantin Fokin, president of the 2nd Russian Tech Tour, and Alexander Galitsky, managing partner at VF Almaz Capital, about Russia’s investment future.
Tech Tour – is your purpose to attract venture capital or find innovative projects here?
It’s both. We operate under the auspices of the European Tech Tour Association (ETT), which is a not-for-profit organization working for more than 10 years now to bridge the gaps between the world’s leading VFs and hi-tech corporations and SMEs in possession of solid innovative technologies and the tangible potential for growth in international markets. Tech Tour has unique experience in pinpointing promising technology startups at their early stages.
ETT holds two-to-four country Tech Tours and one-two sector summits each year. During a country Tech Tour a group of 60-70 investors meet entrepreneurs representing 25-30 select innovation companies in the host country.
About 40% of forum delegates are representatives of the world’s major venture funds; another 30% are technology firms; 20% are investment bankers; and the remaining 10% are media people.
This is your second Russia tour…what was the result of the first one?
The First Russian Tech Tour occurred in 2004 and I was its president. Investors visited Moscow and St. Petersburg and were presented more than 20 select Russian technology companies, including Yandex, Acronis, Parallels and others.
The Selection Committee and the Supervisory Board of the 2004 event featured some major global and national players--Microsoft, Russian Technologies, the RF Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications, Oxenbery Associates, International Computer Club, MK Finance, Baring Vostok Capital, IBM, TRIA International, Innovative Ventures, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Intel, Delta Capital Management, the RF Ministry of Science and Education, and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.
The forum resulted in seven Tech Tour participants attracting more than $25m worth of venture investment. Some of them are now leaders in their market segments.
Meeting Western investors growing interest in Russia’s technology sector, ETT has scheduled the 2nd Russian Tech Tour for September 2009.
What is this year’s Tech Tour’s itinerary and what has been planned?
Delegates will visit Moscow, Tatarstan’s Kazan and Tomsk. It is no accident that these regions outside the RF capital have been chosen as both Tatarstan and Tomsk Region are Russian leaders in innovation entrepreneurship and a Mecca for foreign investment. Efficient government institutions and PPPs have been set up there to promote free hi-tech enterprise, including VFs, technological and industrial parks, and business incubators.
This tour is actually going to be ETT’s 32nd international event. For September 22-25 an exclusive three-day experience has been scheduled to feature 60-70 project hunters from Europe’s leading venture funds and technology corporations.
As usual, there will be 25-30 select firms presented, seeking investment for further development. We hope the Tech Tour will give investors an insight into Russia’s hi-tech market.
Who are your key supporters and partners?
First and foremost it’s the Russian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (RVCA). They provide all the essential media and organizational support as we prepare for Tech Tour. This is an all-Russian, sector-specific NGO set up to help institutional venture investors and service providers. Albina Nikkonen, the Association’s top executive, is on this Tech Tour’s Supervisory Board.
RVCA produces a series of Russian Venture Fairs to put VC companies and innovative companies together. Its 10th Venture Fair is planned for September 23-24 in Moscow, so Tech Tour participants will be able to meet these companies too.
Tatarstan and Tomsk regional authorities are also our partners. Both Prime-Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan Minnikhanov and First Deputy Governor of Tomsk Region Kozlovskaya are on this Tech Tour’s Supervisory Board.
In addition, we have support coming from the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE Foundation) chaired by Prof. Ivan Bortnik, and a number of other Russian organizations.
What do you hope to achieve as a result of the upcoming Tech Tour?
Our main goal is to help Russian companies find strong partners capable of aiding and guiding them in their international expansion.
In a nutshell, we expect to realize one of the main principles of the European Tech Tour Association: from the global to the local, from the local to the global.
For more information please visit www.techtour.com or take part in special information sessions on June 9 at the 7th Business Angel and Innovators Fair in the city of Saransk or on June 19 at the 3rd Moscow Venture Forum.