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Incredible Tech: Skolkovo gears up for annual Startup Village

Startups, inventors, scientists, investors and business angels from all over the world are preparing to descend on the Skolkovo innovation city this week for its annual Startup Village, a giant two-day open-air conference and exhibition.

Skolkovo's two-day open-air Startup Village is the biggest event for startups in Eastern Europe. Photo: Sk.ru.

This year’s speakers are tipped to include Tristan Pollock, a venture partner at the major Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups; the famed Russian film director and producer Fyodor Bondarchuk; Bas Lansdorp, co-founder and CEO of Mars One, a Dutch organisation that aims to establish the first human settlement on Mars; and Russian cybersecurity gurus Ilya Sachkov, CEO of Group-IB; and Natalya Kaspersky, president of InfoWatch Group.

“The main theme of this year’s conference is ‘Super Sapiens: Incredible Tech,’ says Ekaterina Inozemtseva, director general of Skolkovo Forum.

“We will discuss how new technology changes people’s lives on a variety of levels: physiologically (such as cyborgs, or organs and tissue grown in labs), socially, at the manufacturing level (new materials and so on) and as a planet (one of the conference sections is devoted to the ecological impact of technology).”

More than 100 tech experts, visionaries, entrepreneurs and investors will speak at the event’s conference section, which will also feature presentations and master classes by companies including Microsoft, SAP, Cisco, IBM, Yandex, Tinkoff and Sberbank.

As usual, the event – now in its sixth year – will also feature a Startup Bazaar: an exhibition of innovative projects at which teams present promising developments, from prototypes to ready products.

“Taking into account the great interest in this exhibition of tech products and services (this year there was once again huge competition to take part in it), we have expanded it once again,” said Inozemtseva.

“We are expecting about 170 exhibitors. That’s considerable growth compared with the 50 participants we had at the Startup Bazaar just a few years ago!”

About 20,000 people from all over the world are expected to attend this year's Startup Village. Photo: Sk.ru.

The bazaar will showcase both Skolkovo resident companies and other tech products from both Russia and abroad.

“There will be entire stands of foreign participants in the Startup Bazaar. We will have completely fantastical stands from Japan, South Korea, Italy, France and Germany,” said Inozemtseva.

Japan is the official partner country of this year’s Startup Village, and will have its own pavilion at the event. Japanese industrial companies will be scouting among the startups on show for new and promising technologies.

The event, which about 20,000 people from more than 80 countries are expected to attend, also includes a competition for tech solutions, which like last year will be divided into two categories.

Ekaterina Inozemtseva, director general of Skolkovo Forum. Photo: Sk.ru.

“There will be the competition of ideas, for tech projects, for teams at the beginning of their development stage that might not even have formed a company. And then there’s the competition of startups, for tech companies that are already making revenue, and have already raised investment,” said Inozemtseva.

This year, the competition for startups is divided into 15 areas of tech, while the ideas competition is divided into four. The main prize in the competition for companies is 5 million rubles ($80,000), and 3 million rubles for the ideas competition.

The semi-final, which includes the winners of the regional stages of the Startup Tour, as well as those selected by a jury of experts, will take place on the first day of the conference, May 31. The final will take place on the main stage of the Startup Village on June 1. Semi-finalists are taking part in a Pre-Day Boot Camp on May 29 and 30 to prepare for the final.

Entrepreneurs will be able to make the most of the event by arranging meetings with possible investors (and vice versa) via the Startup Village matchmaking service in advance.

As in previous years, there will be a designated zone of augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies set to transport visitors to another realm.

“Like last year, we will have a fascinating VR zone,” said Inozemtseva.

“It will also be open to children, provided they are accompanied by an adult.”

Children aged 14 and over can also enter their own tech projects in a competition in the Super Junior pavilion, with the chance to win a trip to France in July to take part in the FAB14+ festival of digital manufacturing, innovation and technology. On hand to advise the young inventors at Startup Village will be experts in space, agrotechnology and marine technology.

The Startup Village will take place at the Skolkovo Innovation Centre on May 31-June 1. All events are held in Russian and English with simultaneous interpretation available. Free shuttle buses will run to Skolkovo from outside the Battle of Borodino Panorama Museum near Park Pobedy metro station and back again from 8 a.m. to 11.30 p.m. Detailed information, a programme and registration information is available on the event’s website.