A Digital Village, Pawnshop Vending, Titanium Silk, and so on — VEB and NTV Appraised the Diversity of Urals Startups

Yekaterinburg staged a series of casting auditions of the startups contesting for participation in the autumnal season of the national TV show “Million-Dollar Idea.” A panel of experts representing the VEB Innovations, the NTV Channel, the IIDF (The Internet Initiatives Development Fund), Skolkovo, and the Universitetskiy Technopark evaluated over 20 regional teams. The winner startups will be announced in July to be viewed by a multimillion TV audience with an intent to stir up investors’ interest, and challenge the main prize.

The Sverdlovsk Region ranks among Russia’s most robust startup ecosystems. The startups’ technological competence is enhanced by the regional university reputed for its renowned history, as well as its technologically advanced metallurgical industry whose actors demonstrate natural quest for innovation.

“We have just reviewed over twenty startup projects. Some of them have exhibited discernible potentials for obtaining unicorn status. For example, the IRWay team came up with a promising concept of infrared night vision facility. They devised a system of mathematical analysis for video images that precludes light striking of an image by head-on headlights. We trust, this company will join the AUTONET family of the National Technological Initiative and become one of the market leaders. In the “Pharma” category, we have given special credit to the Avers Gel Company, which is developing anti-aging gel on the basis of stem cells. During their presentation, the panel experts were trying hard to guess the age of the good-looking girls demonstrating the gel. The “Timechart” project, too, had an exciting background story. The software for the project was developed by a team of senior-grade students upon their school principal’s request to write a program for automatic compilation of the school curriculum. In the course of the casting auditions, admittedly, those were not the only instances of the praiseworthy products developed by various young tech-savvy entrepreneurs. By and large, in the aftermath of the casting tests, we have to acknowledge that we are delighted by Yekaterinburg’s startups one more time,” commented Oleg Teplov, CEO of the VEB Innovations.

“The regional technological competence embraces three crucial areas — industrial enterprises, information technologies, and medicine. All of them have been presented one way or the other. Although some of the ideas seemed futuristic, most of them are implementable featuring clear understanding by their inventors of the current market needs and prospects for their sales,” said Marat Nureyev, CEO of the Universitetskiy Technopark.

“Although we are actively monitoring the startup ecosystem of the region, today we discovered several new promising projects, such as the Digital Village and pawnshop vending. We plan to continue working with them,” said Mikhail Avdeev, the IIDF representative in the Urals.

“The ecosystem of innovations of the Urals Region has its intrinsic peculiarities, while the engineers involved have mastered all the requisite technical skills and competences. Many products have been developed for specific industrial works, such as foundries, including various complex hardware projects. All such projects rely on highly robust IT systems designed and developed by Yekaterinburg-based R&D centers run by major federal players. Noteworthily, TV studios have eventually begun broadcasting programs addressed to the viewers interested in technological entrepreneurship. It’s inspiring and motivating,” says Ekaterina Kraeva, head of Skolkovo regional operator.

“I was born and raised in the Urals, and I know this region inside out. I know the capabilities of the regional defense industry, metallurgy, machine building industry and medicine. All these spheres are widely represented in our startup casting auditions, and I have to admit that the startups amply reflect the Urals’ inherent spirit, albeit somewhat adventurous, stemming from the days when the first Russian settlers came from central Russia to conquer these expanses that challenged their ability to take a risk and operate on a large scale. I also know that a number of startups have already transformed into effective businesses. In other words, these people rely on themselves only, and they fully apply themselves toiling in this land. This gives me a good feeling of deep respect for them all. Take, for example, the used-tire processing project. It is clear that it has a great potential to become successful at the federal level and, as we can see, it is already gaining ground abroad. One more asset of the Sverdlovsk Region is efficient titanium production. Its VSMPO-AVISMA enterprise supplies titanium even to the Boeing corporation, whereas the local medics’ research, for one, has proved that titanium powder currently used for the 3D printing of bones and vertebrae implants may be substituted with titanium fibers thereby significantly reducing the cost of production of implant constituents. Potentially, the use of titanium fibers will make high-tech operations affordable for more people,” says Sergey Malozyomov, anchorman of the TV show “Million-Dollar Idea.”

Press Office