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Startup Village International Technology Conference: Packing for Mars Soon?

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The basic role of a conference is to filter out the people who are likely to waste your time, and filter in the people you want to talk to. With this in mind, I made my way to the Startup Village conference held on the 24th and 25th of May at the Skolkovo Innovation Center, Moscow. Why not, though? Startup Village was slated to be the event that bridged the gap between startups and large corporations, investors, and mentors – sort of like an accelerator program for startups. The event was a breath of fresh air as it facilitated an avenue for the bag holders to sit across the table from the idea generators.

Organization

As far as the organization of the Startup Village event, it was a success as it retained its usual allure and traffic. The 9th installment of the Startup Village was at the Skolkovo Innovation Center, the regular venue for this yearly mammoth event. The Skolkovo Innovation Center is the largest technopark in Europe, spreading across more than 100,000 sq m. It is popularly referred to as the Russian analog of “Silicon Valley” for obvious reasons. The center also hosts pitch sessions from industry-leading experts, scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors in energy, telecommunications, information technology, nuclear technology, and biomedicine.

Visit the Startup Village website, and you will surely be embarrassed for choices by the impressive line-up of keynote speakers at the event. It is the largest scale startup event in Russia and its neighboring CIS countries. This year’s event had over ten thousand participants from over 163 countries with over 4500 startups on show.

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Quality of Content

The impressive line-up of keynote speakers did not fail to deliver to teach, inspire and develop the attendees at this year’s Startup Village event. The message shared was relevant to the times we live in and would be helpful to those who took it to heart. Some of those that stood out for me were –

  • According to statistics, companies working with innovations develop 1.5-2 times faster. Kirill Kaem, Senior Vice President for Innovation at the Skolkovo Foundation, at the “Space Invaders. Right way to implement innovations” session, invited the speakers to answer the question “How to make technologies in demand for corporations?”
  • At the Startup Village Conference, speakers discussed the state of the Russian venture capital market after the pandemic.
  • During the “New Space. Future space exploration initiatives” session, the speakers discussed space projects of the future and talked about what the world’s cosmonautics will be like in 10-20 years.

The entire conference was filled with insightful and educative sessions like this at each of the halls. On that note, we were satisfied with the lessons from the event.

Logistics

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As far as logistics go, Startup Village covered most of the bases.It was almost impossible to miss the venue, which would have been pretty easy considering the size of the place. However, the website had explicit directions to help foreign attendees at the event – whether they spoke Russian or not. Hence, the website had both a Russian and English version, catering to the needs of the prospective attendees. The FAQ page also had instructions to find the event’s venue through public or private transportation modes.

The Startup Village organizers excelled at making sure that the offline exhibitions were set correctly. Applicants had ample time to organize their stands if they got chosen, which was a plus.

Other aspects like children registration, COVID-19 measures, and participants organization were also top-notch throughout the two-day event.

Hospitality

As for the hospitality arrangements too, there was not much reason to complain.There were enough recreation centers scattered around the map to quickly help attendees find convenience facilities, water, food, or sports centers. We did say there was not much to complain about.

However, one thing stuck out like a sore thumb – the convenience facilities. The toilets were plastic mobile toilet units that you could find at just any truck stop or gas station. We are not picky here. It is not feasible to erect five-star convenience stalls for a two-day event. However, it is possible to invest in better toilet complexes since this event is a yearly event that even a global pandemic could not stop from holding. For an event of this magnitude, held at a prestigious venue like this, it is not too much to ask for.

The comment about toilets in the midst of all the praise about the event is not at all uncalled for, but told in the spirit of humor. In gleaming yellow bold letters beside the comfort cubicles, the slogan says it all about the current situation of the industry, “ad astra per aspera” a Latin phrase which means “to the stars through hardships”. Big conferences like this are a money filter to ensure you meet the right investor and not a guy whose startup is going to be huge as soon as he finds a “technical co-founder.”

Tech conferences are actually becoming some of the cheaper ones to attend because the market is no longer able to support the same level of high-price attendance with so many cash-cautious startups as attendees. So, that means we’re not packing to Mars soon? The nitty-gritty, a bit of discomfort here and there could make a sour impression on an investor.

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Conclusion

Overall, it was a great event, and next year’s event would probably have a larger crowd as the worst of this pandemic would have been behind us. However, if the convenience arrangements remain the same, it would remain to be a poor reflection on the overall status of the industry. International conferences are extremely expensive to produce, and it’s unfortunate that most of those costs are taken off the conference attendees.

All the photos on this spread are courtesy of a good friend at Kapsulik.Production. Thank you.

Disclaimer – This is a review from an attendee with no ax to grind against the organizers or any other participants at the event. These are my honest observations about the event.



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