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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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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.
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
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.
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.
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digitalization: the question here is what tasks the team sets for
itself, because sooner or later the whole business will have to automate
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
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
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.
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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.
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
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.