A diversion to Moscow!
Red Square is as I remembered it a long time ago when
I visited before, in USSR times. But a lot else has changed. The Gum Department store is now filled with luxury shops selling high-end fashions but the biggest lines were for ice cream. I recall the long lines before were for scarce items -- like black shoes in one size only. The stately, Communist-style hotel where I stayed previously is being torn down to make way for renovations, alongside a vast tourist-filled plaza on the river bank. An elegant
Four Seasons now abuts Red Square, and there's a
Park Hyatt and
Marriott nearby. Signs of commercialism are everywhere, replacing long-gone Communist propaganda signs.
This is not on the scale of Beijing or Shanghai's own transitions, but getting there.
I'm in Moscow to learn about Russia's Silicon Valley,
Skolkovo, and to speak about
Silicon Dragon or China-US venture -- the two biggest innovation markets worldwide -- at the Open Innovations Forum.
From my interview with S
akovich Vladimir (l), head of investment for
SK Ventures, I learned started last year and runs 3 funds, each with $50 million, investing in IT, 4.0 industry and agritech. So far, only a few portfolio companies exist but plans are to ramp up next year. Capital is coming in from the Gulf and from Japan, Korea and China.
One of the mysteries about Russian venture is exactly how much is being invested overall. Vladimir helped me to understand why: it's "unpopular" to release these figures because "we care about the results and not the process."
From my interview with
Igor Drozdov (R), chairman of the executive board at Skolkovo Innovation Center, I learned of its initiative to attract more business angels to invest in Russia startups. Last year,
Jack Ma of
Alibaba keynoted this conference -- that was a good start! The founder of Yandex -- Russia's Google or China's Baidu -- will keynote this year's forum. Skolkovo also has links to Alibaba, Huaweii, LG and Panasonic as part of its Asian outreach to help portfolio companies accelerate.
From its start in 2010, Skolkovo has attracted some 2,000 startups with revenues of $1.3 billion at the Skolkovo facility on the outskirts of Moscow. I met with the founders of some of these innovative startups in Russia, including those in e-retailing, neuro-robotics and HR management systems.
Russia clearly is still at the emerging stage, with few well-known international success stories. China and the U.S. have the decided edge globally.
By the way, a link-up between Skolkovo and a China financial group is being announced this week at the forum. It's NDA right now. More later.
See you in Hong Kong, Nov. 15
Check out program here
Meanwhile, we're gearing up for Silicon Dragon's annual awards for VCs, Tech Entrepreneurs and Dealmakers. We'll present the Best of the Year, Nov. 15, in Hong Kong. You can see who's speaking here.
IDG Ventures India is going local, transitioning to a new name
Chiratae that reflects distance from Silicon Valley and its reorganization.
Chinese ride sharing giant Didi Chuxing is rumored to be acquiring bike sharing firm Ofo for around $2 billion. For reference, Meituan bought Mobike in China for $2.7 billion earlier this year.
Airbnb's largest copycat in China,
Xiaozhu, has raised $300 million from Jack Ma's
Yunfeng and Advantech.
Beijing-based Niu Technologies, an electric scooter start-up, is aiming to raise up to $95 million in a scaled-backed initial public offering (IPO) in New York.
dotcom deja vu
but this time in China. Welcome to the land of unicorns, cheap meals and all.