Once a remote hinterland in terms of foreign investment, Russia is now emerging as a hot destination for investors looking for a slice of the action on the digital frontier. The recent Landing Page conference was a perfect example of the New Russian Scene. Just ask 500 Startups founder Dave McClure…
At the end of September a not-so-usual venture gathering occurred in Digital October in Moscow. Just steps away from the Kremlin walls in the 35,000 square-foot space of the former chocolate factory, Geeks on a Plane, the international jet-setting startup, investment and tech tour with the best name on the planet, networked, bantered, and befriended the great and the good in the new Russian tech scene.
Masterminded by McClure, founder and “Sith Lord” of accelerator 500 Startups, and co-organizer of the most imaginative events in the Valley (Smash Summit and UnSexy), Geeks on a Plane takes his ethos on the road (or air), taking investors and executives on a global tour, learning about burgeoning technology markets. Described as having “a sole mission of uniting geeks and exploring cross-border opportunities” GoaP has already touched down in Latin America, Hawaii, and Berlin this year, with next stops planned for New Zealand and the Middle East.
“The market looks pretty fucking good in Russia for the next 10 years”
“Investors definitely should go for the Russian market” said Marvin Liao, CMO of Symbio and one of the Geek-on-a-Plane Eastern Europe participants. And Marvin should know – his former role was as commercial director of EMEA Markets for Yahoo.
“Russia is a big market with lots of talents. Modernization may be not great here but hopefully it’s getting better,” said McClure. He went on to say that the winning combination of Russian engineers and passionate attitude to business are sufficient reasons to compel any Silicon Valley company to invest in local startups.
“Right now, there’s much more engineering talent than design or product management talent but you’ve got one generation of entrepreneurs which have been successful in Russia. Hopefully they are starting to teach and invest in the next generation. The market looks pretty fucking good in Russia for the next 10 years. So the future is fucking bright! Time to buy sunglasses!”
Digital October – the hub of the new Russian digital scene
It took more than three years for GoaP to notice Moscow. This year it was, tellingly, the first stop in the Eastern European itinerary, with the team spending four days in Moscow meeting startups, geeks, and investors and learning about the trends in Internet, mobile, and other tech platforms. And drinking, of course, as McClure admitted.
Established in 2010, Digital October is indicative of the activity around the new Moscow tech scene and has become the focal point of its activities. Aimed at bringing together VCs, leading private investors, government, and private institutions, its activities range from TechCrunch and DLD’s Russian presences, from receptions with Cisco chief futurist Dave Evans and interactive lectures, to hosting the Venture talk-show on Moscow Business FM radio.
Landing Page itself saw the movers and shakers in this Moscow scene represented – travel leaders OktoGo, gaming giants Zeptolab (responsible for Cut the Rope), as well as key digital media players and investors such as Foresight Ventures, Addventure, Russian Venture Company, Glavstart and Yandex.Factory.