Startup accelerators are popping up all the time and normally it is not such an exciting piece of news. However today, Yandex, the Russian “Google”, announced a seed stage accelerator of their own. This is in-line with other corporations that are trying to be closer to the startup ecosystem, for example Google sponsoring TechHub.
Russia is an interesting beast with a lot of talent and ideas that will definitely be home to many great startups. However, there are still elements missing as was evident at the latest Slush, where many Russian companies pitched side-by-side with the rest of Europe. The ideas were brilliant but the presentation and pitching skills were often lacking.
As Yandex stated on their blog “many brilliant ideas in the heads of talented people are destined to perish without a chance either because talented people cannot meet each other or because they cannot deliver their ideas in a form approachable for investors.”
Unlike normal accelerators, Yandex is not planning to take any equity, instead they want to provide expertise, networking opportunities and access to investors with no strings attached. Of course, they will have the opprotunity to poach a few talented employees for Yandex and to invest into great ideas with strong teams they helped build from the ground-up.
The accelerator is called the “Tolstoy Summer Camp” and participants can be from any country, as long as they are fluent in Russian and have a laptop of their own. Basically it is a very long hackathon, where teams are formed in the first stage, ideas are tested, business plans and prototypes are made and finally the products are presented to the investors during the demo day. The investors, among others, include SeedCamp, GrowthUp, Meta-beta, Runa-Capital and Yandex themselves.
The goal of the program is to end up with three to five teams with a solid background, good ideas and a carefully crafted business model.
The Russian website also claims that the participants will be eligible for a scholarship of RBL 20 000 (EUR 495) per month, and participants from outside of Moscow will also receive travel expense reimbursements and hostel accommodation.
To apply, one would need to complete a test task on their site and then part-take in an interview.
As much as we think that there is too many accelerators out there, this is a great initiative for Russia, as there is a lot of talent that needs help in understanding what needs to be done in order to build truly scalable products that are of international standards.