About five years ago I met with a large Russian delegation on a fact-finding trip to Silicon Valley, hoping to learn from the region's success and build similar innovation centers in Russia.
A key goal was to invest the bonanza of oil money through joint public and private financing of Russian startups.
One of the delegates told me at the time:
"We don't want to build a clone of Silicon Valley, we know that wouldn't work. But we believe we can learn how to avoid some of Silicon Valley's problems and eliminate its bottlenecks," said Yuri Ammosov, a senior policy officer in the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.
I'm looking forward to finding out how the work of translating Silicon Valley to "Silicon Steppes" is working out, especially since one of the delegates confided that Russian startups are reluctant to talk about their ideas for fear that officials will steal them. It must be tough funding entrepreneurs with secret business plans.
"The Russian Innovation Week Conference" is a two day event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.
"I hope the conference will serve to stimulate new partnerships between U.S. and Russian companies and help tech entrepreneurs benefit from cross-border investment opportunities," said Dmitry Akhanov, president and CEO of RUSNANO USA, Inc., a U.S.-based subsidiary of Russia's state investment fund RUSNANO.
"In the last three years, RUSNANO has invested $1.2 billion in 18 projects involving partnerships with U.S. companies, and we are actively seeking opportunities to increase our collaboration in the future."
The focus is on biotech, life sciences, cleantech, nanotechnology and IT and communications.
Speakers include serial entrepreneur Dave McClure, Skolkovo Foundation Chief Investment Officer Alexander Lupachev, Plug and Play Tech Center CEO and Founder Saeed Amidi and the U.S. Department of State Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Lorraine Hariton.
More information here: RIW2012 - Russian Innovation Week 2012
Turning Oil Into Innovation: Russian Delegation Seeks Silicon Valley's Lessons - SVW
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I wonder if the brilliant, and sometimes eccentric veteran Silicon Valley VC Tim Draper (above, at Bollywood Night at the Golden State Warriors) will revive a song that he wrote for the Russian delegates in 2007:
Hey! You want to start a business?
Russia seems to show some promise
While weighing all your choices
"Go to Moscow!" you hear voices
Google founder came from Russia
Parametric? - Not from Prussia!
Genesis and PayPal too
SVOD and what is new?
With luck you'll become a Master!
From Soviet biology
Comes really cool technology
From Nukes we get ecology
Ukraine's Orange Revolution
Good for all-freedom solution
And then political pollution
Now it's all in execution
Chorus: With luck you'll become a riskMaster!
All you need is a faster chip
A million rubles
A couple of engineers