The Complete Moscow Startup City Guide

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Russia's capital Moscow is, despite stereotypes, a city developing its entrepreneurial identity. Find out what this city has to offer & what it takes to make it as a startup founder:

Moscow is a charming city that carries the image of several epochs of Russian history and surprises with the number of cultural events taking place during one single day. However, the recent years have made Moscow even more attractive as innovative projects have become the center of business attention and the ecosystem for startups began to grow.

Why Choose Moscow To Found Your Startup?

Being the capital, Moscow always had intensified business life. Now, it is even more saturated as young projects got new opportunities to develop. Let’s see how it happens and where to find support if you are one of those dreamers.

Advantages Of Building A Startup In Moscow:

  • Moscow is the economic center of Russia: forums and meetings take place here, people from different regions and companies can be found.
  • The Russian capital is proud of the saturation of its international connections – from a growing tourist flow to foreign companies departments.
  • It is a modern megacity with proper infrastructure (for instance, free WiFi is available in the streets and on public transport) and a large population (more than 12 million in 2016).
  • Moscow is an educational center. There are a lot of young people with a strong background and passion for changing the world. Sometimes they are ready to wfork for experience only. What’s more, the universities of Moscow create business incubators and offer special business courses.
  • The determination to develop highly innovative industries in Russia is shared by the government and businesses.
  • In general, prospective (or cool) business ideas are the matter of great public interest. Business is the major topic for a lot of media outlets.

What Founders Have To Consider:

  • Networking events are mostly in Russian. It doesn’t mean members of the community don’t speak English (most likely, they do), but the majority of services is in Russian.
  • The attitude towards new projects is rather cautious, though it is really changing now. But still, they often choose a less risky project as a partner (“They don’t believe in startups in Russia!”, entrepreneurs often say).
  • Many founders only rely on their own resources, connections, and skills instead of using special services for new projects.

Though there is a strong belief that founding a startup in Moscow would be very challenging, this perception is changing now. Capital owners learn to work with new small projects, founders learn to communicate with each other and to use available opportunities more efficiently. What is more, there will be no lack of innovations in Moscow as the availability of scientific centers makes the city very potent in constantly providing business with new technologies and ideas for products.

Dive Into Moscow’s Startup Community

The Complete Moscow Startup City Guide

Moscow startup community is represented by young scientists and entrepreneurs on the one side and professional businessmen, coaches, consultants, and experts on the other side. The life of the community is rather rich, it is hardly possible to attend all the meetings and events, but they are really worth visiting. Try the following pages to find them.

Find Info About Upcoming Events, Meetups & Other Occasions:

  • Moscow State University Business Incubator has a very useful news page. Follow them on Facebook or on Vkontakte (which is a Russian social network) to find local events and competitions.
  • Rusbase Media has an online calendar with events of innovations industry taking place across Russia.
  • The state web-portal ‘Moscow Small Business’ collects information about upcoming lectures, conferences, and workshops in one calendar.
  • Digital October has an interesting event-list as the place holds educational courses and events for innovative projects. They sometimes have series of weekend educational events devoted to a field of development (e.g. Blockchain Weekend, BioTech Weekend)
  • DI Telegraph is a space for educational and business forums, conferences and lectures.

Media Outlets For Startups:

  • Vc.ru media (created on basis of popular Russian media about IT ‘Zuckerberg will call’) publishes startup news in a separated section, covering interesting (or successful) ideas for projects and business events.
  • Firrma is a media outlet for technological and venture business. There you’ll find announcements of upcoming events and opinions or comments from leading people of different industries.
  • Inc.Russia has special sections for business ideas (‘To invent’) and successful startup stories (‘To take up’).
  • Spark is an online platform for small business communication and exchanging experience. This is where one can find advice or even partners.

Major Events, Festivals Or Conferences:

  • Open Innovations Startup Tour is organized every year to find promising projects in different cities of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Participants attend workshops, make appointments with mentors and investors and compete for receiving an invitation to Startup Village.
  • Startup Village is an international yearly technological conference for investors, startups, and innovators taking place in Skolkovo. In 2017 the event is planning to attract more than 20,000 participants with 4,000 startups and 1,500 investors.
  • Open Innovations Forum takes place every autumn and is aimed at promoting technological development, enhancing collaboration in innovative business and exchanging experience.
  • Russian Internet Forum and the Conference of the Internet and Business is the major event in the sphere of digital communications in Russia. It is traditionally held as a three-day activity taking place in a holiday residence near Moscow where participants share their views on the development of the Russian digital industry and the Russian Internet.
  • Startup Cup Russia is a part of the global Startup Cup Competition. Projects participate to get feedback from mentors, consulting assistance and financial support.
  • The Startup Of The Year Award from RosBusinesConsulting (RBC) is given to the best projects chosen by both, open public vote and experts’ opinion.
  • The Higher School of Economics holds its’ own Startup Of The Year Award ceremony. They elect best companies in 4 categories: FinTech, hardware, socially important project and global project.

Volunteering Possibilities:

  • Mosvolunteer is an organization connecting managers for meetings, conferences, etc., and those willing to participate in preparation and holding of the events. Mosvolunteer sometimes needs volunteers for business events (Startup Village in 2015 was held with their help).
  • Check the official pages of the events if you want to attend, they often seek volunteers and publish all the information for possible participation.

Volunteering is quite a common type of collaboration in Moscow so never hesitate and offer your help to event managers or startup founders (even if they don’t look for volunteers, try writing them a letter). People of the sphere will appreciate your determination and interest in their activity.

Choose One Of Moscow’s Coworking Spaces

The Complete Moscow Startup City Guide

As renting an office can turn out to be expensive for small companies (frankly speaking, Moscow is an expensive city not for small companies only), coworking spaces are very popular with startup founders. Residents appreciate the variety of services, round-the-clock access, pleasant atmosphere and the community of creative people that can be found in coworking spaces.

  • #tceh is not simply coworking – it is a place for business courses and useful contacts as well. Founders sometimes meet their investors there or use it as ‘feedback’ facility to discuss their projects with experts. What is more, #tceh enjoys the collaboration with Fund for Internet Initiatives Development.
  • StartHub is a coworking center located in one of the creative centers of Moscow – ‘Flacon’ design-factory. The venue is very popular with artists, designers, and filmmakers because of its’ unusual atmosphere of a former factory. ‘Flacon’ is a symbol of creativity and new approaches towards a common process. A swimming pool, a canteen, and a fitness center are located close to StartHub.
  • Coworking 2.0 was created for both freelancers and young projects. Depending on each resident’s needs, this place offers different sets of services (for instance, a resident can rent a working space for 24/7 access during a whole month or make several reservations for the meeting room only) which allows to be economical and not to pay for unneeded facilities.
  • Work Station has several venues in Moscow. The most famous of them is located at Gorky Park and in summer they open terrace for residents. Another center of Work Station, the biggest of all, is located on the Dmitrovskaya metro station and has a capsular hotel and free breakfasts.
  • Arma Coworking holds business meetings and lectures. Residents can choose to rent a mini-office or simply use the coworking space. Arma is proud of the atmosphere of the place created by the local architecture, residents, and staff.
  • DI Telegraph Coworking is located in the very center of Moscow on Tverskaya Street and has many successful VC, media, IT, and educational projects among its residents.

Get Investment In Moscow

The Complete Moscow Startup City Guide

Moscow enjoys the role of the financial center so many companies and private investors do business here. Besides, government and commercial organizations are interested in innovative projects and create special supporting programs. There are many possibilities to get investment at any stage of the project development.

Incubators:

  • The Higher School of Economics Business Incubator provides two types of programs for startups. Residential program HSE{pro} offers working space and assistance from tax advisory to PR-support. It has been the starting point for successful Russian startups (for instance, TimePad). The educational program HSE{goods} was designed for those planning to open a social business project. It can help even if the idea of the project is not yet clearly articulated. The fees for incubator services can be delayed in case the resident is a HSE employee or student. HSE itself is known for reinforcing the collaboration between the scientific community, business and government.
  • The Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Incubator supports business teams at early stages or helps realize elaborated ideas in IT, new materials, gadgets, smart house systems and robotics. University students and graduates should represent at least 50% of the team to enter the incubator.
  • Strogino TechnoPark is the venue for innovative projects at any stage. It has coworking, pre-incubator and incubator programs and a prototyping center. Companies at the stage of expansion or growth can become residents of TechnoPark to construct laboratories or production. The major advantage of being a member of Strogino TechnoPark is gaining access to governmental support as the center is working in strong partnership with Business departments of Moscow authorities.
  • Branch Agricultural Business Incubator in Timiryazev Russian State Agrarian University provides agrarian innovative projects with laboratories, science research equipment and coworking spaces. It also attracts investment and expertise. By the end of 2016, there were many interesting projects among the residents of the center, for instance, an online shop delivering weekly sets of local farm products by subscription.
  • MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) created completely free incubator for students and graduates. The program has already helped several companies to successfully enter the local market; one of them is Octa Smart Food, the products of which are now sold online and in several stores in Moscow.

Accelerators:

  • SKOLKOVO Startup Academy is an educational facility for founders at any stage. There will be lectures, meetings with business coaches and opportunities to find investment. Entering the community of Skolkovo can be very beneficial as funds, laboratories, consulting services, educational centers and many other business facilities are located there.
  • Future Fintech offers an acceleration program for startups in financial and blockchain technologies, information security, payment instruments, banking and insurance services. They are looking for projects introducing software, marketing, technical or analytical products. Future Fintech attracts practicing specialists in the field to collaborate with residents’ projects and helps to find financial support.
  • Internet Initiatives Development Fund offers an accelerator program for IT-companies that already have created a product and started sales. Each team will come through individually focused consulting services working full-day in the accelerator space. After the program is done, the best companies will have an opportunity to participate in a Demoday and present their products before potential investors and partners. Participants can choose to pay for the program or to give a share in their company as payment.
  • GenerationS is an accelerator program containing several stages from online pre-accelerator to final competition of all participating projects. The results of the pitch session at the competition define the best companies, which then share Grand Prix fund (the fund is said to constitute 15 million rubles or about 242.000 EUR). GenerationS welcomes participants from many fields of innovations: smart city, creative industries, life science, finance and banking technologies, etc.
  • Disruptive has been created by MetaBeta founder and ex-CEO, Dmitry Maslennikov after MetaData founders decided to work separately in 2016. The new program is considered to be more than an accelerator. Though Disruptive doesn’t provide investment, it offers startups help with finding the needed specialists, a marketing strategy or anything the project misses. The company also hires people willing to bring powerful startups to life.
  • Territory is accelerating program in the sphere of production which gives access to an ecosystem consisting of an accelerator, a design center and an investment company. The goal of Territory’s activity is to help implement manufacturing innovative ideas in prototypes and small-scale production, with an eye to further large-scale production and sales.

Grants & Subventions:

  • Innovation Assistance Fund provides investment for research and implementation of innovations. Their Umnik program offers the opportunity to get grants (up to 500.000 RUB or about 8000 EUR) for young scientists developing ideas for projects in IT, medicine of the future, materials, apparatus and bio. The Start program supports startups at early stages. New innovative companies can obtain up to 5 million rubles (80.000 EUR). The supporting plan consists of two parts and two years: during the first year, a team completes research in their field and then, during the second step, the project can receive part of needed investment from the Innovation Assistant Fund (in case the team manages to find some other sources as well).
  • The Skolkovo Fund Granting Program offers many investment opportunities. The preferred fields of projects are energy preservation and efficiency, nuclear technology, space technology and telecommunication, biomedical technology, strategic computer technology and software.
  • The Moscow State Department of Science, Industrial Policy, and Entrepreneurship has created a lot of possibilities for small business development by providing subventions. Besides, there is a chance of getting a low-interest loan from the Venture Investment Development Fund for startups that already get finance help from a private investor. The amount of the loan can be up to two times the amount of the received private investment.
  • Innovative Entrepreneurship Support Fund of the Higher School of Economics holds yearly competitions for startup projects. There can be up to five winners and each can get up to 700.000 rubles (about 11.000 EUR) to implement their ideas or be given consulting assistance from invited experts.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • Planeta.ru, by its’ own estimation, has helped to collect more than 589 million rubles (or more than 9.500.000 EUR) by March 2017 (the project started in June 2012). It is one of the earliest and most successful crowd funding platforms in Russia. The project now also provides PR, promotion and education services. Planeta.ru withholds from 10% to 15% of the successfully collected sum (except for charity projects when the fee is not taken).
  • BoomStarter is the crowd funding platform which helps to attract investment for new projects. According to BoomStarter’s rules, the goal of the money collection should be clearly defined and fit one of the 15 set categories created by the platform founders. The fee for the use of the service constitutes 5% of collected sum and is only charged if the needed sum was gained. Apart from the fee, payment systems would withdraw another 5% of the sum and the tax would be collected.

Angel Investors:

  • The National Business Angels Association unites Russian regional angels’ communities connecting startups with investors and helping to develop the venture investment industry in Russia.
  • Business Angels is a network collaborating with the Russian Federation Business Angels community which provides an online facility for applying for support or finding an attractive project.
  • The Private Capital National Business Angel Network helps to find finance and to organize the presentation of the projects for potential investors withholding 5% of the successfully invested sum.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Internet Initiatives Development Fund selects best companies completing its accelerating program and provides an opportunity to get up to 25 million rubles (400.000 EUR) for project development.
  • Altair Fund invests in projects at early stages in mobile and IT spheres.
  • Moscow Seed Fund – a co-investment fund of Moscow, is providing additional finance for technology innovation projects in case they obtain support from other investors.
  • Starta Capital was founded in 2011 in Moscow and now also has a department and an accelerating program in New York. The company provides investment for technological projects.
  • The Untitled Ventures collaborate with cloud technology startups with an already elaborated product. The company has also created The Untitled club of private investors for co-financing projects.
  • Bright Capital is a venture capital company with the main focus on CleanTech, BioTech, IT, and telecom projects. Bright Capital supports projects from all over the world and invests at any stage of a company’s development.
  • Addventure Fund is the former holder of Delivery Club – a successful Russian startup project that introduced a platform for food delivery.

Other Investment Opportunities:

  • The Russian Venture Company does not invest itself but unites many venture investment providers from different spheres. A special form will help projects to find a fund among investors of RVC depending on the project’s field, goals and needs.
  • RusNano works as a co-investor, financing in high-tech production chains or technologies at early stages. The projects applying for support should be nanotech-related and Russia based.
  • StartTrack is a platform that helps investors in finding startups and helps projects in finding investment. The platform was created with the support of Internet Initiatives Development Fund. Using StartTrack is beneficial for both investors and startups as each new member of the platform is carefully checked. Entering projects should provide business development indicators and update them each month.
  • Pipeline is an online service of Rusbase that allows entering a network and finding an investor from the partners of Rusbase. The company also organizes meetings with investors in Speed Dating format which lets investors get to know several projects during one evening and gives startups a chance to be presented to many potential investors.
  • ToWave is one more online platform for investors and startups with many successful venture funds on the list of investors.
  • Start2Up is an advertising service bringing together those who need investment and those who look for a project or look for partners to start a new business. There are a lot of advertisements from different regions of Russia.

As one of Moscow startup founders said, “Despite the wide-spread prejudice, a project with a good idea would be able to find investment in Moscow”.

Seek Further Advice In Moscow

The Complete Moscow Startup City Guide

  • MSU Science Park provides assistance and consulting at any stage and lends spaces for technology innovations companies.
  • The Innovative Navigator around Moscow can help to find an incubator or learn about the support a new project can get from authorities.
  • Moscow Small Business web-portal can be useful for checking tax regime, possibilities for getting subventions and working spaces in Moscow. Moreover, the organization provides advisory for entrepreneurs concerning starting and running a business in the city.

So be brave and join the community of people breaking stereotypes. Moscow is a city that challenges you to make the world better and, as you see, the chance of improving the world is real!

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The guides are like startup communities – they constantly change and grow. Make sure to check for updates and if you have something to add to one of them or want to publish one for your city, get in touch right away! And don’t forget to enrich the startup ecosystem by creating your company profile at StartUs!

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