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bne IntelliNews – Russian tech entrepreneurs on the rise: Forbes identifies 10 “future unicorns”

Far from their native countries, Russian-speaking entrepreneurs are thriving in the world’s major tech hotspots from Silicon Valley, to Western Europe, to South-East Asia, reports East-West Digital News (EWDN).

These entrepreneurs have colonised the world’s best accelerators, including such ones as Y Combinator, 500 Startups and Techstars. Russian-speaking entrepreneurs reportedly accounted for 40% of a recent Alchemist batch. 

The past few years have seen the international triumph of a range of unicorns founded by Eastern European entrepreneurs, including Arrival, Badoo, inDriver, Nexters, Personio, TradingView, Veeam Software and Wrike, to cite only cases with Russian founders.

Russian-founded decacorns include Miro which is now valued at $17.5bn  as well as Pavel Durov’s Telegram and Nikolay Storonsky’s Revolut, which are worth $30bn or more. Ukrainians are behind GitLab ($11bn) and Grammarly ($13bn).

In late December Forbes Russia  teaming up with research agency DSight  identified 10 “future unicorns” founded by Russian entrepreneurs. The selection criteria included company growth, penetration of international markets, growth of the target segment and team’s experience. Focus was made on companies having emerged in the past five years, and having raised less than $50mn and not reached $1bn in valuation yet. 

An expert committee of nine top Russian VCs  from Leonid Buguslavsky, to Igor Ryabenkiy, to Nick Davydov, to name just a few  helped identify the strongest startups that fit these criteria.

10 Russian-founded “future unicorns” according to Forbes Russia

  • Amma Pregnancy Tracker (femtech)  launched in 2016 by Andrey Podgornov, Boris Shkolnikov and Yevgeny Zhikharev  key investors: SOSV, Prytek, Sergey Solonin ($4mn raised so far)  operates from Hong Kong with a development team in Moscow (read more).
  • Collectly (fintech for the healthcare industry)  launched in 2016 by Levon Brutyan and Maxim Mizotin  key investors: TMT Investments, Goahead Ventures ($4.9mn raised so far) started in California.
  • EBAC Online (e-learning)  launched in 2020 by Russians Pavel Aleshin, Andrey Anishchenko, Alexander Avramov and Brazilian Rafael Steinhauser  key investors: Baring Vostok, Sergey Solonin, Angelsdeck ($12,5mn raised so far) headquartered in Brazil with plans to expand across Latin America.
  • Endel (AI-powered soundscapes)  launched in 2018 by Dmitry Bezugly, Kirill Bulatsev and Oleg Stavitsky  key investors: Amazon Alexa Fund, Avex Group, Impulse Ventures, Target Global ($7.1mn raised so far) based in Berlin.
  • Fridge No More (food delivery)  launched in 2020 by Pavel Danilov and Anton Gladkoborodov  key investors: Altair capital, Insight partners, Davidovs VC ($16.9mn raised so far)  headquartered and operating in New York City.
  • HintEd (corporate software adoption)  launched in 2018 by Artem Tanganov and Sergey Yartsev  key investors: Kirov Group Ventures, Softline Venture Partners  headquartered in Moscow.
  • Maroo (buy-now-pay-later in the wedding industry)  launched in 2020 by Alexey Nikityuk, Andrei Riaskov and Anja Winikka  Key investors: Acrobator ventures, Y Combinator, Davidovs VC ($3.8mn raised so far) headquartered in New York City.
  • Osome (business process automation)  launched in 2018 by Konstantin Lange and Viktor Lysenko  key investors: Altair capital, Target Global, Phystech Ventures ($24.5mn raised so far) based in Berlin.
  • Prodly (software development tool)  launched in 2017 by Max and Daniel Rudman  key investors: Norwest Venture Partners, Leta Capital ($17mn raised so far) headquartered in California.
  • SpatialChat (group video chats and virtual events)  launched in 2020 by Almas Abulkhairov, Andrey Grudkin, Roman Skvazh and Vladimir Zakoulov  undisclosed financial information based in the USA.

As noted by Forbes, Russian or Eastern European tech founders attract increased attention from global investors: “A flow of US VCs regularly comes to us to inquire about interesting projects involving such entrepreneurs which wasn’t the case just a few years ago,” Denis Efremov was quoted as saying. 

Efremov is principal at Fort Ross Ventures, a Russia-connected VC firm operating in Silicon Valley. He believes Russian-speaking entrepreneurs have become the third-largest “ethnic business community” in the USA. 

Many of these entrepreneurs enjoy the support of investors with roots in Eastern Europe. Among the most established ones are Almaz Capital, Gagarin Capital Partners, LVL1, Runa Capital and Target Global, to name just a few big names with Russian origins, as well as AVentures Capital and TA Ventures, which are based in Ukraine, and Acrobator Ventures, a Western-managed fund. Such funds as Leta Capital, NRG Ventures and The Untitled began operating in this field more recently.

 

This article first appeared in East-West Digital News (EWDN), a bne IntelliNews partner publication.

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