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The Way It Is

A small step for Skolkovo Foundation, a huge step for the Russian Federation: Skolkovo in the Silicon Valley
Miguel Francis

Its been a long day in the Silicon Valley, its been a long day in the digital world…” are the opening lines of the Skolkovo theme song that the Skolkovo Silicon Valley Roadshow participants and organizers happened to compose as we were going down the freeway in our bus. Yes, sounds intriguing doesn’t it? The Skolkovo Foundation, not to be confused with the Skolkovo Business School, is a government initiative that aims to create a hub for IT, energy, nuclear and other fantastic but yet real tech Russian projects that the minds of today produce in full swing all over the country.

Skolkovo Foundation has several clusters,, creating a hub for many specific areas of technology including the IT Cluster, headed by Alexander Turkot along with the Deputy Director of Education and Research, Katya Gaika. To me it seems that one day they had an idea, to bring forth the Russian mind into the heart of Silicon Valley, and see the reaction. Knowing that America has, for a long time, been “buying” Russian IT talents and taking them overseas with a nice starting bonus, perhaps brought forth just another reason to form a power-house of those talents, allowing them to progress, develop themselves and their projects and get that nice starting bonus, but this time in Russia.

Skolkovo Foundation Silicon Valley Roadshow 2011 was literally a roadshow of 12 of the most promising start-ups from within Skolkovo’s IT Cluster, which not only granted these lucky start-uppers good capital but also offered them quite impressive tax breaks, even by Western standards! A reality show, filmed to expose the IT culture in Russia, is soon to be aired on prime Russian networks. The participants got to travel around some of the grandest Silicon Valley institutions like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, Garage Tech Ventures, CISCO, Kiventures, Orrick, Stanford University, Singularity University, Black Box, Plug n Play, US Market Access Center and many others. Participants got to present their projects in front of leading representatives of these companies, and some have even managed to make a name for themselves.

Wine tasting Day at Sonoma Valley

I was very fortunate to have met Katya Gaika and between allowed the opportunity to associate-produce the documentary- reality side of the project on the American side, spending 12 shooting days with Skolkovo’s mobile IT Cluster in the heart of Silicon Valley and finding myself bombarded with the energy of IT. This was all quite a thrill, I must say. Without further ado, lets dive in.

Firstly, Ilya Gelfenbeyn, CEO of Speaktoit, Skolkovo IT Cluster. Speaktoit is an interesting App which essentially is an Android version of Siri, and has received much attention at the Roadshow. The Wall Street Journal asked for another interview and a few venture funds turned their attention over to Speaktoit. It’s amazing that if your product has been developed earlier than another product, but the other product has the marketing power of a company like Apple behind it, your product though similar, will likely to get a huge increase in the amount of attention it usually receives, which is exactly what happened.

Award Day at Skolkovo IT cluster

Film Language, a project led by Andre Gromowski and Sergei Kuzmin of Bazelevs Innovations, a branch of the Bazelevs company owned by Timur Bekmambetov, an innovative cinematographer shooting some of the most exciting movies both in Russia and Hollywood: “Daywatch”, and “Wanted”, starring Angeline Jolie and Morgan Freeman. FL is a program that turns your actions, verbs and words into 3D animation. This opens up not just the opportunity for the film market to have a shortcut to their storyboards and shot lists, but also creates a new channel for media messaging—why read something when you can get shot animation sent over instead? Perhaps it could be something like this: “Hey honey, pick up some milk on your way home.” A car is driving down the street to a building titled “home”, a man titled “husband” walks out of the car goes into the store and buys a bottle titled “milk”? All of this happens quickly and looks appealing. Could be interesting. The project has gotten much attention from the Valley.

Other projects to look into from the Skolkovo IT Clulster Roadshow are Choister (The search and analysis of internet data, search engines, social networks etc., centralizing your search), Kuznech, Rock Flow Dynamics (3-D imaging software for oil and gas birthplaces, which received investments from Intel earlier this year), Epythia, Evanti, Pirate Pay (software that will kill every torrent alive legally), CyberCop (fraud prevention software), CRT Innovations (a security system that uses imaging and voice protection software, highly secure and better than using a finger or typing in a password), Agent Plus, iBuildApp (free creation of mobile apps) and Cloudmac.

Award Day at Skolkovo IT cluster

The show was so grandiose in its scale, from the cocktail reception of the crème de la crème of the Silicon Valley at the Rosewood Estate to the executive VC committee pitching at Google and Cisco, that it became a positive quest of exploration and innovation.

Being alongside every participant for me was truly a unique experience. I remember a toast: “This trip is one small step for Skolkovo Foundation, but a huge step for the Russian Federation.” That perhaps summarizes the warm feeling you could sense after seeing our boys go through the roast and toast of the toughest Silicon Valley executives and come out happy and appreciated. Keep an eye out for Skolkovo City, a marvelous high-tech city outside of Moscow, and the Skolkovo Roadshow.

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