Chairman of the Board of SKOLKOVO — Russian Silicon valley — Igor Drozdov would like to bring to the Russian market for many Finnish companies.
“For Finnish and other foreign companies SKOLKOVO can serve as a great platform for entering the Russian market. In five years we managed to organize a wide network of contacts throughout Russia, and now the project has 1.5 thousand startups,” he says.
In early December, Drozdov attended the startup conference Slush in Helsinki, which was attended by 68 Russian companies.
In addition to the startups, “SKOLKOVO” is open to companies with an established position in the market. They can join the project as partners, having the opportunity to use the know-how of young participants.
Of the largest Finnish enterprises a partner of “SKOLKOVO” is a manufacturer of mobile devices Nokia. Drozdov stressed that participation in the project not only gives access to the contact network. The basic idea of the Fund is to help companies to develop their business ideas into real business activities and to pool resources.
“We assist companies in many aspects — from finding investors to certification of goods and solutions to their legal issues.
This fall in the scope of the Fund includes investing, and early next year, he will also venture financing.
“We founded an independent investment Fund Skolkovo Ventures, invest in Russian and foreign startups. At the initial stage, 75% of the capital of Skolkovo Ventures formed by the government and 25% by private investors.”
According to Drozdova, the investment Fund will operate the same as any Western enterprise: to invest in with the potential of the company on a reimbursable basis. One of the reasons for the creation of Skolkovo Ventures was that Russia’s venture capital market is not yet developed.
“Many people think that “SKOLKOVO” will just give grants, but it is not. Our task is to find companies need funding and help them to start to profit from innovations. In addition, we allocate funding for specific projects.”
The Russian government is trying to attract local startups to participate in the SKOLKOVO project, offering them tax breaks. Drozdov said that about 150 companies from among the joined SKOLKOVO have a turnover on the international market.
“Aircraft manufacturer Boeing was founded in SKOLKOVO aviation training and research center. The company intends to introduce in the curriculum a significant amount of information relating to aviation safety”.
Of the largest global companies in “SKOLKOVO” have already opened their centers of research and development the French group Schneider, a Japanese maker of Panasonic electronics, as well as the American network equipment maker Cisco. SKOLKOVO cooperates with 56 large companies from different corners of the world.
According to Drozdova, the economic sanctions the US and the EU against Russia did not affect the work of “SKOLKOVO”: “the Companies with which we work, sanctions are not touched”.
He also stressed that closer cooperation could be useful not only to private Finnish companies and the state. The Finnish state centre financing of innovative projects Tekes has its office in SKOLKOVO.
“Many companies come to us for advice on entering foreign market. In this respect, next door to Finland is of great interest for many Russian enterprises.”
Advisor to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Pekka Viljakainen (Pekka Viljakainen) believes that Russian and other foreign startups in the Finnish market is hampered by existing in Finland, bureaucracy: “unfortunately, to obtain a work permit here is incredibly difficult. To start a company — not a problem, but for working and paying taxes there are many obstacles.”