13 мая 2021  |  
6:30 PM  April 24, 2021

How a startup conquers the world: 5 tips from Startup Tour-2021 expert

© предоставлено пресс-службой Startup TourHow a startup conquers the world: 5 tips from Startup Tour-2021 expert

TOMSK, Apr 24 – RIA Tomsk. Women and shareholders in the team are needed for tech startups from Russian regions to enter the international market. This opinion was expressed in an interview with RIA Tomsk by one of the organizers of the Skolkovo Startup Tour competition, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Skolkovo Ventures and investor Pekka Viljakainen.

Pekka Viljakainen has already been to Tomsk several times in the previous years of the Startup Tour. And in general he has traveled through all the cities participating in the technology startup competition. Traditionally, Viljakainen acts as a lecturer, jury member and potential investor.

On the eve of the competition, he told RIA Tomsk reporters about the organizers' expectations and formulated the top 5 skills for bringing a startup "into the big world".

– According to your observations, is there a "field" of successful business in our country – a region from which the most viable business ideas and talented entrepreneurs emerge?

– I could distinguish such a zone 10 years ago, but now the differences between regions are not so significant, they are gradually disappearing. Including thanks to the systematic work we do. When I say "we", I mean technoparks, universities and other organizations. There are many more regions that have good conditions for startups.

As an example: about 10 years ago my friends in Moscow said that there were Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Kazan for business in Russia. I, of course, already knew about Tomsk and Vladivostok. But nevertheless, my friends were right.

Today the situation is different. If you look at where the Skolkovo residents come from in 2021, then this is the whole of Russia – they are more or less evenly distributed across all regions.

The companies that have become or are preparing to become "unicorns" with billion-dollar capitalization are emerging all over the country – in Yakutia, Kaliningrad. I invested seven years ago in the Tomsk company Bombsquare and received a very good return. This team merged with the Kaliningrad-based Panzerdog, and Mail.ru then bought the combined company. The deal was almost for 35 million dollars.

I think that success in a particular region closely correlates with the activity of society in this constituent entity of the Russian Federation – this is the university community, university rectors, business angels and, in general, the community as a whole that supports startups and innovative movements. In particular, Yakutia and Tomsk are very striking examples of this – they are actively talking about innovations and startups.

Thus, in my opinion, the "fields" of successful startups, about which you are asking, has become significantly larger in recent years in Russia.

– In your opinion, what role did Skolkovo and Startup Tour play in these positive changes?

– I remember when we started our work 10 years ago, I gave an interview in Tomsk. And the first question was: "What is a startup?" There were questions about the Skolkovo Foundation: "What is this? Youth program? Are you trying to keep the youth busy?" I explained that in fact this is a business where entrepreneurship is the creation of high-tech jobs, including in Tomsk.

Over the past years, Skolkovo has had a huge impact on changing attitudes towards startups and technology business. Our idea is to involve everyone in the business - moms, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers. So that they tell their children that starting a business is very good.

This needs to be emphasized, because historically in Russia there has been a negative attitude towards business and the opening of private companies. As a rule, people say, no, it's better to work for someone. It's the same in Finland. My grandparents said: "Pekkushka, you need to find a good job in a large corporation, best of all in Nokia." But I chose my path.

I believe that here it is necessary to change the situation from a mental point of view – to inspire people that they can start their own business. Russia has created a competitive taxation system, there are different structures for creating startups, technology parks, venture funds. Today, nothing prevents a person from starting their own business. This is why the Skolkovo Foundation was also created – to provide such opportunities.

If we go to the facts, then at Skolkovo, in the ecosystem of startups, 40 thousand people work from all over Russia. One job in a high-tech sector, as a rule, has a multiplier effect – from seven to eight additional jobs. So we can multiply 40 thousand by seven or eight. This proves that Skolkovo's contribution to this area is enormous.

– What new companies and projects are you expecting in the Startup Tour 2021?

– I would like to see people who are passionate about what they do. Internal passion, faith in your business are the most important moments for me as an investor. If we talk about the sectoral aspect, these are projects in the field of digitalization, sustainable development and ecology. In the investment horizon until 2030, the topic of ecology will always be present, you need to pay attention to this.

© предоставил Сергей Дорофеев
On digitalization: the question here is what tasks the team sets for itself, because sooner or later the whole business will have to automate its business.

When we select projects, we evaluate the business potential of an idea, not its scientific potential, because you can't just "eat" science. Only by turning fundamental research into business can you make a profit and, accordingly, live on it.

– In your opinion, what ideas can become global business "blockbusters" now, during a pandemic?

– In general, the pandemic has little to do with tech startups. But there are good examples in other areas. As an example, I will cite a friend of mine who lives in Helsinki. His company is developing tests for COVID-19. They were on the verge of bankruptcy two years ago, but now the Americans have bought the company for $700 million. Let's see if Russian entrepreneurs offer something that connects the pandemic and technology.

In general, from the point of view of many people, the pandemic helped them in some matters and spheres. Business meetings are held virtually, there is no need to stand in traffic jams, everyone arrives on time, including the big bosses who used to have to wait in the corridors and queues. The world has become more digitalized and, accordingly, more filled with business opportunities.

– What are your top 5 recommendations for bringing a startup to the international market?

– The first is to have a good understanding of competition, in particular the global competitive environment. When we have Yandex and Google, you can easily look at all this and find out who we are targeting not only in Russia, but also in the world.

The second thing is that you have to be able to compensate for your lack of certain skills by putting people who have those skills in the team. For example, if the head and leader of the startup is a "techie", he needs people with business skills. Do not be afraid to take people into the project who are smarter than you in some way.

The third thing is external shareholders who have to be invited into the company. In Russia for some reason there is some reluctance to bring such people into a project. Nevertheless it is necessary, because shareholders can help a startup not only with money, but also with advice, participation and contacts.

I started my own business, my first startup, when I was 13 years old. Without outside help I simply would not have been able to achieve the results I did, so I think that such a system of support is very important.

Fourthly, you have to be part of the startup community, because you cannot learn how to do it from books or university courses. You need to get into the juice of it and share negative and positive experiences with each other. To do this, for example, we're holding the Startup Village conference at Skolkovo on May 27 and 28.

© предоставлено организаторами
Fifth – it is necessary to recruit women into the team. In the field of high technology, they better solve the issues of establishing trust, communication, and social ties. The skills needed for this are better developed in women than in men. Therefore, if entrepreneurs believe that the team should only have "people like me" – guys from Tomsk, from one uni, then this is a mistake and a misconception. Diversity in the team in terms of gender composition, age and skills is its advantage.


Earlier it was reported that Startup Tour is a large-scale project aimed at developing a culture of technological entrepreneurship and identifying promising innovative startups in the regions of Russia. Since 2011 it has visited more than 100 cities, experts have considered over 15 thousand applications.

In 2021, the Startup Tour will be held online, covering eight cities – Tver, Ufa, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Tomsk, Murmansk. The organizers of the event are the Skolkovo Foundation and ANO SK Forum. Participation is free.

The regional Tomsk stage will take place on April 26 on the startup-tour.ru website.

RIA Tomsk is the official information partner of the Startup Tour in Tomsk.

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