Amid cynicism and scrutiny, Russia makes high-decibel pitch for start-ups

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Skolkovo (Russia), June 3 (IANS) With the Russian economy not in the best of health and cynicism around its ‘Start-Up Village’ initiative in this Moscow suburb, it was a high-decibel pitch by officials at an event here as speaker after speaker said that time had come to “put the past behind” and to move ahead.

This was in apparent reference to the concept being trashed by many in the country, weighing in the investments and the purported outcome of the multi-billion dollar project. But with thousands turning up to attend the first day of the two day event, the pitch seemed to be working.

Vijakainen Pekka, advisor to the President of the Skolkovo Foundation, had the audience nodding in agreement when he said that he has been to almost 70 cities and was very optimistic about the talent, creativity of Russian start-ups. The audience, mainly young men and women, couldn’t agree more – to go by their reactions.

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With more than 18,000 jobs created in the past few years, 1,432 start-ups under its umbrella and $1.6 billion in revenue for resident companies, the fourth edition of the ‘Start Up Village’ has speakers with an eye to “cross the barriers” and “set aside some negative opinions” it generated domestically on the huge investments and the outcome generated.

And so, soon after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dvorkovich Arkady, flanked by a bevy of IT experts and investors, inaugurated the ‘Start Up Village 2016’, the buzz was palpable and so was the exitement among the 2,000-odd start-ups participating this year.

The inauguration ceremony was held at a massive stage set up in the Skolkov facility, attended by thousands, including 500 media persons, in the backdrop of a huge digital screen. Amid cheers from the large audience, the speakers touched on a host of issues, including the “problems faced by the start-up initiative over the years.”

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Officials said they were happy at the sight of thousands turning up at the event and hoped the “vegetative state” of the start-up village will soon be a thing of past. Terming the new age generation as “innovestors” the speakers said the time had come for the people to understand that the “potential is there, the process is ready and the time is right”.

Seeking investments and opportunities from investors who had come over from 20 countries, officials told IANS that they were “pretty sure that step-by-step, they were walking on the right course”. Arkadi later said “Russia was ready to embrace knowledge from other countries and share theirs with others”.

And the people seemingly are impressed. “What I like here is that it’s just not being left to business but that the start-ups have a serious and a pro-active involvement of the government here” opined Sophie Ibbotson, a participant.

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Having been here two years ago, she informed this time not only was the size and scale of the event much larger but the tax breaks and other incentives by the government had pepped up the exitement.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted on [email protected])



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