Russian Startups in Silicon Valley: The Key to Success

The image of Russia in the Western world has long been ambiguous, to say the least.

With news vividly portraying hackers meddling in politics and holding some sort of a power in global matters behind the scenes, the true potential of professionals from Russia has been regarded with caution and wariness when it comes to establishing connections and collaborations in the United States.

But whether the connotations are positive or negative, one thing holds true against all odds: Russia has some of the best and brightest minds to offer, and the technical talent in the country is replete. And it’s a rich resource worth tapping into.

For a long time, Russian tech companies and businesses didn’t have it easy establishing a strong presence and building connections in the United States. The circulating news coverage of Russian’s hacking escapades and campaigns helped develop a very peculiar reputation for professionals from Russia — a reputation of knowledge and capabilities that are strong, but also provide reasons to be concerned about. This reputation also shaped the general attitudes towards the Russian tech community in Silicon Valley — a community that, in fact, is growing fast and expanding quickly. On one side, by local startups grew wary of accepting funding from Russian venture capitalists eager to invest in uprising businesses in the United States; on the other, tech firms that interact with Russian talent and were familiar with the reputation resorted to additional security measures to protect their data from foreign technical professionals accessing it.

However, the tides are changing; and the reputation that once generated caution and wariness around tapping into Russian resources also established an important perception and understanding of Russian technology talent — a reputation of excellence and undoubted skill. A recent study by HackerRank found that Russian programmers were among the best developers globally; they dominated specifically in the area of algorithms — one of the most competitive areas in computing.

If you think about it, the presence of technology forward-thinkers with a Russian background hasn’t been new in the US: in fact, it has been behind a number of major success stories that dominate the tech world in the United States and globally. It was Russian immigrants who helped build the latest generation of Silicon Valley’s tech giants and today’s biggest innovators: one of Google’s co-founders Sergey Brin is originally from Russia, and so is Yuri Milner — an early investor in Facebook who recognized the potential of the world’s largest social network from its early days.

The same could be said about the startup world that Russian developers have been enriching with their skill more and more by day, as well as the increasing number of startups emerging in Silicon Valley and further pushing the borders of what’s possible through innovation. Already, Russian startups have left their imprint on Silicon Valley in such frontline areas as blockchain, artificial intelligence, biotech, and cryptocurrency. It is this growing number of innovative startups in Silicon Valley that are gradually building strong bridges between the American and Russian ecosystems.

In fact, there are even platforms uniquely suited for startups with a Russian background to gain traction in the United States. One of these recently established platforms is a Russian-American accelerator backed by the partnership between Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank and a leading global financial institution, and 500 Startups, an early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator. As a four-month-long acceleration program at its core, the acceleration process is in ways similar to an MBA crash course: founders and entrepreneurs involved in the program often have to attend multiple lectures per day, work on the development of practical skills in sales, operations, management, and marketing, and participate in one-on-one meetings with mentors in their respective industries who provide insight and guidance in how to find the best product-market fit.

However, with the world going global and the arena to conquer extending past the confines of Silicon Valley and the US in general, Russian startups can look beyond traditional acceleration paths and into venture studios.

The unique skill set of technology and engineering professionals in Russia especially comes to light in today’s context as the world swiftly moves into the digital space and opens new barriers for collaboration, expansion, growth, and use of resources. In this climate of change, the companies who will come up at the forefront of this new digitized world will be the ones with a globally diverse, multigenerational teams with the best human resources across industries from different regions globally — and for Russian professionals, this is a unique opportunity to build on their expertise, core competencies, and find a powerful global network in the US and beyond through venture studios.

This is where GSD Venture Studios stands out specifically: with its mission to “catapult” its portfolio companies towards global success, it puts strong emphasis on globally sourced teams with the best professionals, a powerful network of investors and founders in the US and beyond, multigenerational approach to team-building, and GSD’s founders’ direct, hands-on involvement at executive positions that ensures smooth and optimized growth flow in the US and globally thanks to their deep knowledge and experience of these markets.

To be able to succeed in the US arena and beyond, international startups — especially Russian ones that gain traction — need to start thinking on a more global scale and be open to adopting new perspectives that will help them develop better resources and skills across a number of effort lines to succeed in the US market and globally. GSD’s resources and executive guidance will help Russian startups at the beginning of their journey to develop powerful toolkits and take advantage of resources on the following key 5 lines of effort: Product, Investment, Influence, Sales/Marketing, and Systems.

GSD’s network and guidance will allow rising Russian startups find the best product-market fit in the US and globally based on a deeper understanding of the needs and preferences of the industry the young company is venturing into. Thanks to GSD’s network of investors globally, the startups will be able to establish trust-based relationships with potential investors beyond Russia’s borders and in the US market, building on GSD’s reputation developed over many years. With GSD’s influence in the US and across borders, Russian startups will be able to maximize the upside of their “hacker” reputation and build one of their own based on the unique technology they introduce and exceptional programming skills they rely on. With GSD’s deep understanding of how the US market operates and how to capture the true need of various industries, the startups will get a unique opportunity to optimize their marketing efforts in such a way that will yield maximum results in sales. And finally, with GSD’s partnerships with the best legal and HR systems globally, the startups will develop a powerful systemic backbone to fall back on when following the path towards global success and recognition.

GSD’s unique vision of a more holistic approach to leading young companies to success doesn’t simply go beyond borders and tap into international resources for the best results; the venture studio also takes pride in its intergenerational approach to mentorship and coaching of their portfolio teams within. What a growing Russian startup truly needs — and might not know about — is the unique combination of support and guidance from older, more experienced professionals and the ambition and vision of the younger entrepreneurs. As “young” startups (or “fledglings”) prepare for their international flight, they will find a nurturing environment within GSD’s ecosystem where their ambition and drive for innovation will gain direction and momentum under the guidance of more experienced executives and mentors who have been in the field for a long time and know it inside out.

The mentorship is not a one-way street within GSD: as young, Russian entrepreneurs get the support of globally renowned executives who get directly involved in the company’s growth, they also develop a strong sense of belonging and feel appreciated in this global ecosystem: as a Russian team that brings a unique perspective with its skill set and background, the portfolio companies contribute to the diversification of GSD’s ecosystem with their progressive and innovative ideas, gaining confidence in their products and services and attracting more mentors eager to contribute to their assimilation to the US and global markets within their industry.

The bottom line is, as physical boundaries between countries are gradually forgotten and diversity comes to the forefront in times of digitization and globalization, the perspective of Russian startups undergoes an evolution, too: the true technological skills and programming abilities of Russian-born engineers are gaining value in the US and globally, and Russian startups more than ever have a unique opportunity to take advantage of these newly built bridges between the US and Russian startup ecosystems to begin their journey towards global success. And to grow quickly and assimilate swiftly, Russian startups have to look beyond the traditional accelerator opportunities and embrace a bigger, bolder way of thinking to achieve success in this new climate.

GSD Venture Studios provides the necessary platform for launching successful startups with a Russian backing — through the emphasis on direct involvement, intergenerational mentorship, and professional network across borders, the venture studio can become the golden ticket for any idea-driven Russian startup to also become growth-driven beyond the borders of Russia, in the US, and globally.

Written By: Gary Fowler, Co-Founder & CEO of GSDVS