Russian Techs Hit The Road To Win US Funding

US-Russia tensions are not deterring Russian IT firms from seeking American capital.

Seven promising Russian technology startups will travel to Silicon Valley in April to woo US investors. They will receive four weeks of mentoring from 500 Startups, a San Francisco-based early-stage venture fund, before making their pitch at a Demo Day in San Francisco.

The trip is part of a joint accelerator program of 500 Startups and Russia’s state-owned Sberbank. Launched last September, the initiative attracted applications from 840 fledgling Russian IT firms, winnowed to a shortlist of 30.

Those selected spanned artificial intelligence, electronic commerce, the internet of things, big data, robotics, cybersecurity, supply chain and educational technology. Each received seed money of up to 10 million Russian rubles (US$150,000) and the chance to promote their product to Sberbank’s business clients.

In February, the entrepreneurs had the opportunity to give a two-minute presentation to potential investors at Sberbank’s School 21. Described as “an educational initiative to train world class IT specialists,” School 21 is housed in Factoria Business Park in Moscow’s northern suburbs. The school opened its doors last November and aims to graduate 1,000 future programming professionals to support Russia’s credentials as a global fintech hub.

While e-commerce was strongly represented, firms operating in medicine, data analysis and authentication, as well as education, were among the seven chosen for the trip to California. The judges also favored Data Screen, which helps analyze and manage digital content distribution. Customers include 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney, for which Data Screen collates and verifies disparate sales data. Data Screen has a strategic partnership with the Russian branch of information group Nielsen.

Also coming to Silicon Valley are Heartex, a provider of tools for collecting data and converting data to profitable assets. It aims to become a major force in the rapidly growing machine-learning market. Another venture, Oz Forensics, an authentication platform for verifying digital documents and photos and detecting fraudulent items, has been acclaimed by SWIFT.