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Skolkovo in the USA

The Skolkovo research center is taking a selection of its top IT companies to the United States in a road show it hopes will bring a fresh wave of investment to the Russian hi-tech sector.

The eight companies chosen to take part on the trip will be paraded at Silicon Valley in late September to early October in the hope of securing some much needed capital for Russia's poorly-funded IT industry.

Although the lucky companies have not yet been officially selected, Alexander Turkot, the executive director of Skolkovo's IT cluster, told The Moscow News that they would include both new start-ups and companies that are already relatively well-known on the Russian market.

"It's likely that companies like Group-IB and Rock Flow Dynamics will be included, as well as a voice and image recognition company, and a dynamic simulation and virtual modeling company," Turkot said. "The focus will be on companies whose business models fit global trends and go beyond Russian niches."

Group-IB is Russia's leading computer security company and specializes in investigations against cyber crime. Rock Flow Dynamics develops software for the petroleum industry and has already received investment from US technological corporation Intel Capital.

The road show follows an announcement by Skolkovo earlier this year that it was pushing its strategic priorities in the IT sphere. The research center named several priority industry segments that have growth potential on a global scale, including multimedia search engines, smartphone apps designers, green IT, information technologies for medicine, and wireless sensor networks.

"These are the niches in which several Russian IT ventures have already achieved leadership locally, and it is logical to develop them on the Western market," said Gleb Moskalenko, head of the Digit.ru technology publication.

On the road

The road show is to take place in two stages. During the first, the Russian companies will spend several days with representatives from some of the big names of the global IT world, including Microsoft and Google. Each firm will give a presentation outlining their work and the companies will then be ranked in order of investment attractiveness.

In the second stage, the Russian companies will be set up with oneon- one meetings with venture funds to discuss investment opportunities based on the recommendations made in the first stage.

Skolkovo's Turkot said the research center hopes a cooperation deal it signed with Microsoft in March this year will help the Russian companies to make contacts with investment managers for multinational IT companies.

"All entrepreneurs we plan to bring to the United States are young and we expect them to be helped a lot by the mentoring factor of being ranked by big players in the industry, who will play the role of business angels," Turkot said.

The head of the IT cluster said that one of Skolkovo's goals is to render systematic support to Russian start-uppers by attracting angel and venture investors.

Lacking funds

Moskalenko of Digit.ru said that investment is badly needed for Russian IT ventures, many of which lack the funds to implement often promising ideas.

As a result, many innovative companies in the past have fled to the West. Possibly the most famous example is Stapan Pachikov, a Russian inventor of the first handwriting recognition software.

After moving to the United States in 1994 due to financial difficulties, Pachikov ended up developing the handwriting recognition software for Apple's Newton tablet computer and his inventions are now used by postal services in a number of countries.

"The road show will bring innovative new Russian companies into the light and give them the chance to prove themselves to international IT giants, increasing their chances of going global," Moskalenko said.

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