Moscow Notes

I was in Moscow as the Vice President of EBAN on the 30th of September to give a keynote speech for the ICT startups pitching competition at the Skolkovo Innovation Centre in Moscow as the invitee of Skolkovo Foundation. Following my speech, we listened to an interview with Ari Korhonen, the other Vice President of EBAN, on exits.

The pitchings of the 10 startups were all very good but we had to select the best one to be awarded a seed fund of $50,000.

view from my room in the morning of the 1st of October


Moscow has one of the largest municipal economies in Europe and it accounts for approximately 22% of Russian GDP. As of 2009, the GRP in Moscow reached 7.16 trl roubles ($225 bln).

Moscow has the lowest unemployment rate of all federal subjects of Russia, standing at just 1% in 2010, compared to the national average of 7%. The average monthly wage in the city is 41,600 roubles, which is almost twice the national average of 21,800 rubles, and the fourth highest among the federal subjects of Russia.

Moscow is the undisputed financial centre of Russia and home to the country’s largest banks and many of its largest companies, such as natural gas giant Gazprom. Moscow accounts for 17% of retail sales in Russia and for 13% of all construction activity in the country. Since the 1998 Russian financial crisis, various business sectors in Moscow have shown exponential rates of growth. Many new business centres and office buildings have been built in recent years, but Moscow still experiences shortages in office space. As a result, many former industrial and research facilities are being reconstructed to become suitable for office use.


Московский_международный_деловой_центр_«Москва-Сити»_14.07.2014Moscow International Business Centre

The Cherkizovskiy marketplace was the largest marketplace in Europe, with a daily turnover of about thirty million dollars and about ten thousand venders from different countries (including China, Turkey, Azerbaijan and India). It was administratively divided into twelve parts and covers a wide sector of the city. Since July 2009 it has been closed.

In 2008, Moscow had 74 billionaires with an average wealth of $5.9 billion, which placed it above New York’s 71 billionaires. However, as of 2009, there are only 27 billionaires in Moscow compared with New York’s 55 billionaires. Overall, Russia lost 52 billionaires during the recession List of Russian billionaires by net worth. Topping the list of Russia’s billionaires in 2009 is Mikhail Prokhorov with $9.5 billion, ahead of the more famous Roman Abramovich with $8.5 billion, in 2nd place. Prokhorov’s holding company, “ОНЭКСИМ” (ONÈKSIM) group, owns huge assets in hydrogen energy, nanotechnology, traditional energy, precious metals sector, while Abramovich, since selling his oil company Sibneft to Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom in 2005, has bought up steel and mining assets. He also owns Chelsea. Russia’s richest woman remains Yelena Baturina, the 50-year-old second wife of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Oleg Deripaska, the 1st on this list in 2008 with $28 billion, was only 10th in 2009 with $3.5 billion. Based on Forbes’ 2011 list of the world’s billionaires, Moscow is the city with the most billionaires in the world, with 79 from 115 in all of Russia.

The nouveau riche, also called the “New Russians”, often in a derogatory sense, have a reputation for flaunting their wealth; the avenues for doing so have also increased in recent times – a sense of fashion and self-consciousness has instilled itself through the many haute couture and haute cuisine spots in Moscow.


220px-Logo_of_the_Skolkovo_Foundation.svgSkolkovo Foundation

Skolkovo Foundation is the principal agency responsible for the Russian Skolkovo Innovation Centre, a scientific and technological centre for the development and commercialisation of advanced technologies. It is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 and charged by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with creating a new science and technology development centre in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo. The Skolkovo innovation system comprises the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (SkolTech) established in partnership with MIT, corporate R&D centres, business incubators, private seed and venture funds, and start-up companies, as well as residential space and social infrastructure. It is a city with over 30,000 residents and employees.

Skolkovo gave a grant of $780,000 to a company called Workle, which is a service that people can use to start their own Internet-based careers, in 2012. As a result, Workle increased its remote workforce by over 500 percent, according to Yekaterinburg News.

Skolkovo is governed by a special law which gives its resident companies special economic conditions for running their businesses. More than 300 companies have received the status of Skolkovo resident.

I met with Andrei Burenin, Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation, before starting my speech. His team, consisting of Daniil Osey, Director of Investment Office and Eugeny Tabkin, Chief Investment Officer, were the key organisers of this event.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia, is a member of the Skolkovo Foundation Board of Trustees.


IMG_4127Skolkovo Innovation Centre

The Skolkovo Innovation Centre is a planned high technology business area being built at Skolkovo near Moscow, Russia.The site aims to be a highly modern complex created to encourage science and technology companies. Although historically Russia has been successful with development of science and technology, its lack of entrepreneur spirit led to government intervention of patents and non-proliferation of Russian tech companies beyond the scope of regional service. This site is tasked with not only the development of technology start-ups but also marketing them correctly. As corporations and individuals become “residents” of the city, proposed projects and ideas receive financial assistance. Skolkovo was announced on 12 November 2009 by then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.The complex is headed by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and co-chaired by former Intel CEO Craig Barrett.

Every year, Startup Village is organised around the area of the Skolkovo Innovation Centre.


IMG_4137Skolkovo Business Angels

The Skolkovo Foundation has also an investment department. They set up their own business angels network to invest in startups. They regularly listen to the pitchings of entrepreneurs at the Skolkovo Innovation Centre. There are certain requirements to become a member of the Skolkovo Business Angels.


1st day – 30 September, Tuesday

I was able to rest only one day after my Lagos trip and now it was time to fly to Moscow. Because my daughters are studying at the Tarsus American College, I had to be in Adana for their school registration, so I had to fly from Adana to Moscow via Ankara.

To be honest, that was the first time for me to make an international departure from Ankara, and I was a bit stressed because Turkish Airlines had given me only 50 minutes’ connection time to the Moscow flight. When I arrived at the Ankara airport, I understood it wouldn’t be a problem. The transfer from domestic arrivals to the international departure area was just 5 minutes. I wasn’t concerned about missing the flight due to long queues at the passport control, x-ray security checks, etc. such as one experiences at the Istanbul airport. If I need a transit airport in Turkey again, I will certainly prefer Ankara, not Istanbul.

The flight to Moscow was comfortable. I managed to finish reading the book Entrepreneurship Equitation on this flight so I was happy to accomplish something I had planned.

I arrived at Moscow’s Vukolkovo Airport on time and the transfer guide was waiting for me outside the airport. The airport is new and modern, with marble floors similar to the ones in Istanbul, so I almost felt as if I hadn’t left home.

The only problem was the traffic jam between the airport and the Skolkovo Innovation Centre. We left the airport around 5pm and didn’t arrive at the centre until 6.15 pm. On a Sunday morning the trip would probably take only 15 minutes but at that hour it took 75. My speech was scheduled for 6pm, so the programme started with a slight delay.

Ari, who was to make a speech on exits, arrived an hour before I did. Unlike me, he was able to spend an hour at the hotel before his speech. I had to go directly to the event.

Kostantin Fokin and Inna were also there and it was good to see friends. Konstantin is the President of National Business Angels Association of Russia and the CEO of the Centre for Innovation Development of the City of Moscow and a Board Member of EBAN.

After I uploaded my introductory video and my presentation onto the computer in the conference room, I was ready to deliver my speech. It was one of the best conference rooms I’ve ever given a speech in.


IMG_4133Best Practices for Access to Finance in the Early Stage Market of Europe

Baybars Altuntas, Vice President, EBAN

Skolkovo Innovation Centre

30 September 2014, 6.30pm – 7pm


Here you can find my presentation: Moscow EBAN presentation_September2014 – Kopya

Here are some testimonials about my speech:

‘’It’s been our good luck to have Baybars coming to Moscow and speaking at Skolkovo Pitching Day. In a pretty short time and lively/energetic manner Baybars gave a clear picture of the European angel market, recent trends, and shared his personal experience. Well done!’’

Konstantin Fokin,

President, National Business Angels Association of Russia

CEO of the Centre for Innovation Development of the City of Moscow

Board Member of EBAN

‘’Having Baybars as a keynote speaker is always a success – due to his positive and enthusiastic manner he manages to hold the attention of the audience and generate interest in the topic that he touches on.’’

Inna Gudovich,

Assistant Director, the Centre for Innovation Development of the City of Moscow

‘’Thank you for your bright speech. It was very interesting, informative and encouraging. And many thanks for your energy and sense of humor – you do know how to talk to the audience.’’

Daniil Osey,

Director, Skolkovo Foundation

фото 4Afterwards, I enjoyed listening to the pitchings of entrepreneurs as well as Ari’s interview-speech on exits. After the pitchings, I sat on the jury for the awards committee. The winner was going to be awarded $50,000. PANORICS was the winner. Please Google Panorics to find more about this startup. It is a high growth project that is ready for investment. All jury members explained the rationale for their decisions to more than 100 participants. Mine was very simple: It was ready for investment and it was clear that 50K seed fund would be sufficient to grow the business.

I found opportunities to talk with the Russian startups and investors in the coffee area. Following the event, we went to the dining area, where I enjoyed the delicious cuisine. After chats with a few entrepreneurs, Ari and I left the Skolkovo Innovation Centre and headed to the hotel.


IMG_4176Crowne Plaza Hotel

We were booked at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, World Trade Centre. My room in this excellent hotel had a spectacular river view. The breakfast room was also very comfortable. If you go to Moscow, try this hotel and ask the reservation clerk to book a room with a river view.

Ari’s departing flight the next morning (to Naples, Italy) was earlier than mine, so we had a chat and then said our good-byes as we went up to our rooms for the night.



2nd day – 1st of October, Wednesday

I got up at 7.30am and was in the breakfast room half an hour later. It was a lovely breakfast room, with an atmosphere that reminded me of the one at the Ritz Carlton in Bahrain. Following my breakfast, I got into the cab waiting to take me to the airport at 10am and it was a pleasant trip without a traffic jam. I was at the airport by 11 and completed all the check-in procedures without any problems. I was in the Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge by 11.30 and immediately started writing my Moscow notes. The lounge is excellent, and has the same design as the one in Istanbul.

If you haven’t been to Moscow before, hurry up! You will see one of the most, maybe the most, modern, green and historical cities of Europe!


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