East-West Digital News
Earlier this month, the 4th annual TechCrunch Moscow conference showcased many of Russia’s hottest tech startups. The conference aimed to show how innovation can “address the fundamental human needs more efficiently to increase the quality of life.”

No fewer than 39 Russian tech start up stars competed to win the Startup Battle, and an additional 19 startups were featured on the Startup Alley 2.0.

Among the projects presented were:

  • MediaGloves, which came up with a special stainless liquid that can be applied to the tips of any gloves to allow navigating a smartphone with gloves.
  • Obereg, designed a smart bracelet that measures heart rate and body temperature, detects sudden falls and sends this information straight to any number of smartphones.
  • KidErudite, offers specially designed and psychologists approved mobile apps for children.
  • WayRay’s augmented reality road map is projected straight onto a car’s windows.
  • Tag and Find allows users to place a small sticker on a valuable item that is then easily detected when it comes within a 5 meters radius of the paired smartphone.

Digital October, the conference co-organizer, also launch two startup projects: a TED-like digital library of educational materials, DOTV, and New Professions Lab, which features online courses specializing in professional development within the fields of future proof careers.

The happy few
Six finalists were chosen to compete in the finale of the Startup Battle:

  • Obmenigrami, an online platform which allows gamers to swap or sell their used games or accessories for consoles using geo-location features.
  • Looky, a start-up offering a portable TV guide, which can be accessed from any Internet supporting device.
  • Gbooking, which offers a smart way for local businesses to sell their services, with a user friendly booking process showing the availability of specialists in real time and a feature to adapt pricing based on specialist booking rates.
  • Aviashopper is a mobile guide covering all major international airports of the world designed for frequent travelers.
  • Medesk, a cloud healthcare platform that aims to build an ecosystem for private healthcare players, from clinics, to insurance companies, to medical device vendors. To the date, Medesk platform claims more than 10,000 patients have registered their health records across Russia.

The winner was DreamRoomer, an online service that helps landlords find tenants based on the tenants’ detailed profile and pictures. Once the landlord finds a perfect tenant, they can get in touch and exchange their contact details.

News from the industry maestros

Inessa Ishunkina presented the latest statistics on the Russian Internet, which showed that 76 million Russian users in October were using social networks 50 minutes a day; Smart TV and mobile internet audience is growing very fast; major advertisers are Renault, Nissan, Volkswagen and Megafon; and the most popular websites are Yandex, Mail.ru and Vkontakte.

Market experts like Sergey Fage of Ostrovok.ru shared information on the new phenomenon called “growth hacking,” while Adeo Ressi, the founder of TheFunded.com and The Founder Institute, talked about the differences between the Valley and other places in terms of business dealing.

“It is good when there is access to money of venture capitalists, “ said Ressi. “You can send your employees to California: they can take a picture with the background of Facebook headquarters, but it will not change them. Silicon Valley is not a region, it is the state of mind. Our research has shown that the best area for startups is Tel Aviv, Israel, not Palo Alto and Moscow.”

Meanwhile, it was a surprise to representatives of SurveyMonkey, Kayak and Google that the question “Why do you expand in Russia” in a couple of years has changed to “How do you expand in Russia.”

Finally, Leonid Volkov and Ekaterina Patyulina, members of the electoral opposition camp of Alexey Navalny, said they considered their campaign as a start up, talking about the special projects and general atmosphere in the team, as well as the volunteers motivation.

In spite of important government efforts, start up development and foreign investments are still hampered by Russia’s lack of legal and political clarity, noted Edward Shenderovich of Kite Ventures – which sponsored the event – and TechCrunch’s editor Mike Butcher.

“Visitors of TechCrunch Moscow in 2013 were not as many as we wanted,” Butcher noted, citing the increased cost of tickets. But maybe startups are becoming less fashionable now?
This story first appeared in East-West Digital News, a leading online resource on Russian digital industries.