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Sarah Granger talks on Startup Women Forum

20/04/2011

       Sarah Granger — successful entrepreneur, web-innovator and author   of dozens of publications — was an invited speaker from the USA to take part in Startup Women Forum that took place in the beginning of April 2011. After the Forum she shared her impressions with local and foreign media. And now I’m sharing the story with you…

Puffed sounds of “I Left My Heart inSan Francisco” were filling the air of the conference-hall. The picture looked familiar to me: the hall was full of participants, mainly women with smartphones and designer purses, who were drinking coffee and sharing talks. It was hard to believe I was in Moscow again. Last time I had been inMoscow in 1989 when Soviet military troops had surrounded the Red Square and the lines for the bathroom tissue had been blocks length. This time I was not as a tourist in the country. I was invited as a speaker to the first innovative forum for Russian entrepreneurs – Startup Women.

Fairly speaking, I had absolutely no idea of what to expect. I had heard all the stories about the  luxuries of Moscow and I also had heard  a lot about the absence of infrastructure for venture investments and about widespread corruption and about the poverty. But I came to the country with my memories picturing mellow and enthusiastic people I had met during my last time inRussia and I was hoping to meet the new generation of such people again. And my hopes came true. I could see dozens of smart and charming women with inspiring stories and quite interesting business models. Some of them had been in the bussiness for 15 years and their enthusiasm and craving for innovations brought them all to the Startup Women Forum.

Passing by giant billboards, changing lanes on a 9-lane motorway running through the city it was impossible not to feel the new type of energy in the air fueled up by the spirit for innovations. Women participating in the Forum all contribute towards the ambitious goal: “To kick-start the women entrepreneurship in the country”. The efforts of these women and their activities can be seen as the integral part of the processes undergoing in Skolkovo andMoscow Management School, processes that have their aim to create a new formation of stakeholders inRussia.

It’s obviously not an easy task to accomplish. These women would need to create a whole new ecosystem for numerous entrepreneurs, consultants, financial specialists to appear. On the other hand state strategies and regulations should stabilize in order to cut down the risks for potential investors from overseas. And local venture capitalists would also need the platform to comfortably invest into Russian innovations.

Tatyana Kanzavelli, Deloitte Centerfor the Edge, moderated the session I was taking part in. It was she who accompanied the group of overseas invitees i.e. me, Tom Marcus (Woodside capital) and Brooke Moreland (Fashism.com). Russian organizers – Alena Popova, Maria Kosenkova, Darya Batukhina did a fantastic job attracting outstanding speakers and moderating the forum. Key local speakers were Elena Maslova, co-founder of Smart-Book and GrouponRussia, and Elena Isheeva, TV-journalist and co-founder of the project Banks TV. Dozens of presentations were made by venture capitalists, social entrepreneurs and experienced web startuppers. Every speaker was asked to share some cases and to give an advice which could possibly give a fresh impetus to the conversation on how Russian women can be involved in hi-tech business.

Moscow right now is a world full of possibilities where new ideas are highly welcomed but this world is still full of struggle as stakes are high and risks are high. The women I’ve seen and talked to on the Forum are the illustration of the clear fact – the world has changed. These women are smart and energetic and have a passion for what they do. A lot of entrepreneurs in Russia really think they can come toSilicon Valleyand easily get, say, 5 millions dollars for their projects. I won’t be surprised if some women I met with will actually raise solid investments in a couple of years and their projects will not only copy overseas analogues but will be unique and successful!

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