East-West Digital News
La French Tech, a government-led initiative that aims to stimulate and promote France’s startup ecosystem, is launching a Russia branch.
The kick-off event on Feb. 17 gathered around 100 tech entrepreneurs, representatives of large or small companies, research institutions, venture funds and incubators, as well as journalists and diplomats from both countries. The event was hosted by the brand-new “Maison des Entrepreneurs Français,” which aims to assert itself as the first French incubator in Russia.
“French innovation is little known in Russia, which is the largest Internet and telecom market in Europe. Russians pay more attention to the US, the UK and Israel,” noted Ozon CEO and French Tech mentor Maëlle Gavet.
However, the past few years saw several examples of successful cooperation. Runa Capital Partner Dmitry Chikhachev provided the example of Capptain, a French mobile analytics startup in which the Russian fund invested $1.5 million in 2012. The company was acquired by Microsoft less than two years later.
Other notable examples include AT Internet, Blablacar, Criteo, Kameleeon,  Target2sell, and Weborama. These French companies launched offices, subsidiaries or joint-ventures in Russia in the past few years.
Quality label and startup tour
French Tech’s Russia branch has set for itself the goal of attracting more such players to Russia. Moreover, the local French tech community will be invited to join forces to gain stronger traction in both image and commercial terms.
“For example, we plan to launch a French Tech quality label, which will benefit to companies that meet strict criteria,” Thierry Cellerin, one of the local French Tech coordinators, explained to East-West Digital News.
Among French Tech’s first initiatives in Russia is the French Tech Russian Tour, scheduled for early June, in a bid to promote French technologies in this key market. The tour will include one-to-one meetings with Russian tech players and investors, coaching sessions with market experts, and participation in two major industry events – Skolkovo’s Startup Village and international e-commerce event eDays.
Ten French startups will be selected to participate in the Russia French Tech tour. Candidates are required to apply no later than March 15. The jury includes representatives of Mail.ru Group, MTS, Ozon, Runa Capital and Yandex.
The Russia French Tech Tour is being organized by Business France, the government-backed export agency formerly known as Ubifrance, in partnership with Skolkovo, the international tech hub under completion on the outskirts of Moscow.
Ozon, a major Russian e-commerce company, Russian Internet giants Yandex and Mail.ru Group, venture investors Direct Group and Runa Capital, Paris-based tech NGO Hello Tomorrow and tech media East-West Digital News and Maddyness also participate in the initiative.
This story first appeared in East-West Digital News, a leading online resource on Russian digital industries.