The stereotypical image of captive Russian scientists working away at a top-secret laboratory in Siberia – popularised by James Bond movies persists to this day. But in 21st century Russia, the reality is different: highly-prized technological know-how is still among the best in the world, but it won’t be a secret for much longer.
It’s true that the Russian startup scene is a few years behind its most advanced equivalents in the United States and elsewhere (when it comes to finance and marketing, almost certainly), but there is also an amazing opportunity here for potential investors, whether they be private business angels, risk-taking venture capitalists or large corporations to get in on the ground level.
Although the business environment in Russia holds many challenges for young Russian startup entrepreneurs (the word has even entered the Russian language as стартаперы, or “Startupers”) – not least the struggle to combat corruption and bureaucracy – they have some advantages, too, over their Western counterparts.
Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH), together with Digital October, Moscow’s globally-minded technology entrepreneurship center, and PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Center for Technology and Innovation in Russia, has recently introduced their Russian Startup Rating. The goal is to provide an objective assessment of the development level and dynamics of young technology companies established in Russia. Let’s take a look at the startups that made it into the Top 10…
In a nutshell Hi-tech multitouch display
The startup story Displair produces screenless displays that project fully interactive, penetrable images immediately into the air. The images are produced on the basis of a flow of air with water particles protected from the wind. An optical computer-vision-based multi-touch system allows the images to be controlled with the fingers. Images can also be flavored, with an option of rapid changes of flavor.
In a nutshell Educational service
The startup story LinguaLeo is a web-based service for learning and practising English. Users pick and study texts that appeal to them by ticking off words they do not know and their translations.
The project also offers interactive games involving a character, Lion Leo. A record is kept for each user, reflecting their actual and possible progress in language learning. Some of the functionality – for instance, learning more than 10 words a day – is only available to paying users.
In a nutshell Mobile game developers
The startup story ZeptoLab is a producer of video games known primarily for its Cut the Rope project, which has already been downloaded by over 100 million users worldwide.
The company’s portfolio features three games for mobile devices, distinguished with various awards: Cut the Rope, Cut the Rope: Experiments and Parachute Ninja. ZeptoLab also sells toys and accessories featuring its main game character, Om Nom.
In a nutshell Ad sales service
The startup story AdEasy is a direct ad sales service permitting users to independently create and pay for the placement of their ads on AdEasy client websites. Users can upload ads in various formats (in either text, graphic or animated form) using Adobe Flash. Undesirable ads can be switched off, prompting the entire payment to be refunded to the user.
In a nutshell Cost-cutting tech for oil refiners
The startup story Global RRT offers a high-tech solution for oil refineries, helping bring down petrol production costs. The end product is not a device but rather a set of instructions, for which the company asks roughly $5million. Once a client buys the technology, it would have to invest an additional $50m in refinery upgrades and bring petrol production costs down by almost a factor of three.
In a nutshell Enterprise resource planning (ERP) for human and financial resources
The startup story Acumatica has two main products on offer. The first is an ERP system for managing both the human and the financial resources of a business. The collection of this data makes it possible to see the full picture of a company’s operations, analyse it and make informed decisions. The second product is a platform for developing cloud applications for businesses.
In a nutshell Voice calls directly from sites
The startup story Zingaya is a service offering a new voice communication method for website visitors: online calling. Calls are redirected to the client company’s telephone number. The user can call a specialist without leaving the website. Calls are free for users, and all they need is a microphone and speakers.
In a nutshell Distributed video surveillance system
The startup story Lesnoi Dozor is a software and hardware complex for monitoring forested areas, enabling prompt fire fighting. The system operates using cell sites or towers. The system uses its webcams to locate fire outbreaks and transmits the information to all services connected to the system – for instance, fire brigades, local authorities and environmental engineers.
Doctor at Work
In a nutshel Social network for doctors
The startup story Doctor at Work is a Russian-language social network for doctors. The network allows doctors to publish their research papers and news pieces about their clinics. It features various earning options: doctors are paid for their publications, for inviting colleagues, and for participating in paid surveys conducted by the portal’s partners. The network also offers job ads and online legal aid.
This article is a part of the Top 50 Russian Startups special project produced by Russia Beyond the Headlines, an international source of political, business and cultural news and analysis on Russia-related topics.
Image credit: Main image – flickr user jamesjordan