If you are disrupting finance, you'll probably want to be in London. If you want a name in fashion, Paris will be the right place for you. For tech founders, Silicon Valley is the unofficial global startup headquarters.
There's a reason why everything happens in Silicon Valley. It has a vibrant ecosystem of thinkers, developers, builders, investors, salesmen, and early adopters who seem to thrive on trying out the next new thing. Facebook. Google, Tesla, Airbnb, Uber — the list seems endless — all the big names and the big-league players are present in Silicon Valley.
Hence, it's not surprising that startups from other parts of the world often find their way to Silicon Valley to put their ideas to test, raise funds, and take advantage of the thriving ecosystem that it provides. For instance, Skype and Spotify came from Sweden to unlock growth in Silicon Valley. Even Alibaba has a data center and an office in Silicon Valley.
This piece looks at seven interesting startups from Russia that might be making a debut in Silicon Valley soon.
Sberbank And 500Startups Partner To Accelerate Russian Startups
Sberbank, Russia's largest bank and a leading global financial institution, in partnership with an early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator 500 Startups, are providing a platform for Russian startups to make their debut in Silicon Valley. Last week, the joint Russian-American accelerator powered by Sberbank and 500 Startups held a Pitch Day to end a four-month-long accelerator program.
The accelerator program, which saw the startups spending three months in Moscow and one month in San Francisco, led to the development of 80 pilot projects. Ten of those projects are being developed within the Sberbank Group, 25 of those projects are being developed within the accelerator partner companies, and another 45 are being prepped to launch.
The last month of the program, which took place in San Francisco, saw the startups working with experts and mentors within Silicon Valley's tech ecosystem. They also had an opportunity to meet with other startups, regulators while getting introductions that could help them forge relationships with investors. The Russian startups were also able to meet some established tech companies such as Google Ads, Airbnb, Zendesk, and Silicon Valley Bank, among others.
Svetlana Efimova, cofounder at Oz Forensic, says that Sberbank's accelerator program is valuable because it "allows you to understand what the market is like here, what place you can occupy, what is the best way to promote your product, what kinds of clients you should start working with and who can help you meet your first client. It's networking that deals with all these issues."
Anton Trantin, cofounder at Yorso, while speaking about Silicon Valley experience observes that "[t]he strength of the Valley is that people willingly and easily introduce you to their friends. It's an open environment."
During the acceleration program, the startups experienced the "Growth Hell Week." They had to attend as much as five lectures per day starting 9 a.m. and finishing at 5 p.m. The lectures delivered insights into the practical skills such as sales, operations, management, and marketing, necessary to run a successful business. Konstantin Sonkin at i-Brain compares this to an MBA course in one week.
The third week of the program in San Francisco was dedicated to one-on-one meetings with mentors in their respective industries who advised on how to improve their product development.
"I am happy that we have brought to the Valley really strong teams that have had the opportunity to present their projects to the local investment community and see the international prospects of their business in the new light. For us as well the first accelerator wave has become a rewarding experience and a source of new ideas for our Group business development. We are planning to launch new acceleration programs in the future," said Mark Zavadskiy, vice president and head of ecosystem development department (SberX) at Sberbank.
"The accelerator programme allows to take your lumps in a shorter timeframe, mentors and experts share the knowledge they accumulated over years of working at tech companies. They motivate you to check as many hypotheses as possible and quickly reject inefficient ideas," said Natalia Magidey, head of the accelerator.
Here's a look at the newbies.
i-Brain calls itself an AI-powered Neuro-interface for the restoration and improvement of motor functions of the brain in game form. i-Brain is developing neuro-interface-based AI complexes to significantly improve the efficiency of rehabilitation of people who have suffered a stroke or brain injury. The startup was founded off 10 years of research into how to eliminate the root cause of movement disorders.
Data Screen calls itself cloud-based software that collects raw-data directly from licensees through API refining key processes of digital content distribution. In simpler terms, Data Screen is developing a solution to help copyright holders manage digital distribution of their content.
Third Opinion calls itself the first medical neural network for solving diagnostic tasks using artificial intelligence. Third Opinion helps medical professionals with the recognition and analysis of medical images such as MRI, ultrasound, X-ray, and blood tests using neural networks, thereby helping doctors avoid mistakes.
Oz Forensics calls itself a KYC platform for authenticating digital documents and images for recognition, biometric identification, and protection against digital fraud. Oz Forensics creates tools to verify documents and protect against digital fraud especially in the insurance and banking sectors.
Yorso is a service for buying wholesale fish and seafood online worldwide. The startup is developing a service to optimize the wholesale supply of fish by digitalizing access to only quality-checked fisheries and processors around the world to offer the best prices on the market.
Mishka AI has built a soft plush bear that it calls the best friend for children and their parents. The "smart" soft toys that it produces can tell fairy tales and enhance the development of everyday skills by conducting educational games.
Doczilla calls itself a simple and reliable contract constructor from Lex Borealis lawyers that eliminates the complexities of developing legal documents. Doczilla provides users with access to dozens of editable document templates. The documents are drawn up by a team of highly qualified lawyers with cumulative experience spanning different industries.
Some interesting startups have come from Eastern Europe in the last couple of years. Russian startups have made their mark in Silicon Valley in cybersecurity, business, artificial intelligence, biotech, and, recently, blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Nonetheless, there still seems to be some tension especially when Russian-born engineers need to work with sensitive data owned by "local" companies. The growing number of Russian startups making their debut in Silicon Valley might help to erode some of the underlying reasons for such tensions to facilitate a mutually beneficial relationship between American and Russian startup ecosystems.