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Russia’s first hardware startup accelerator launches in Kazan

While startup incubators and accelerators have been springing up like mushrooms in Russia over the past few years, this one deserves particular attention. It is the first such structure in the country completely dedicated to hardware projects – from consumer robotics to 3D-printing to smart electronics for “smart home” systems and wearables.

The accelerator, christened Navigator Campus, opened February 15 in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, 800 km from Moscow. It is 100% privately owned, in contrast to all the other incubators, accelerators and technoparks of this innovation-friendly republic of the Russian Federation, as co-founders Ramil Ibragimov and Vasil Zakyev told East-West Digital News.

The two co-founders have invested $1 million from their own pockets in the project, while five venture funds – Almaz Capital Partners, Grishin Robotics, Phystech Ventures, Quantum Wave Fund and Runa Capital – have brought in $3 million. More funds, up to $10 million in total, will be brought in to develop the accelerator further.

In addition, a $3 million investment fund has been formed to finance the resident startups, with one fourth brought in by Ibragimov and Zayev and three fourths by the funds.

“Russian engineering education is among the best in the world,” says Grishin Robotics’ founder and Moscow State Technical University graduate Dmitry Grishin. “As a robotics investor, I would love to see more young people in the country launching their own startups in this field. Similar international initiatives demonstrate that hardware incubators play an important role in market development and make the life of entrepreneurs much easier.”

Last year Grishin Robotics invested in the Boston-based hardware incubator Bolt.

Towards a nationwide network

The Kazan accelerator has already attracted 14 startups, some from Tatarstan, the others from as far away as St. Petersburg, Tomsk (Siberia), Astrakhan (southern Russia) and Ukraine.

Among these startups are iBlazr, a startup from Kiev building the world’s first smart LED-flashlight for smartphones and tablets; Krisaf, from Tyumen, which offers robotized gym equipment for accelerated rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy; and Ennova, a startup manufacturing 3D-printers.

According to Ibragimov and Zakyev, Navigator Campus is just the first accelerator of a network that will encompass several Russian cities – starting with Ufa and Perm.

“Our ambitious aim for the next 5-10 years is to launch this kind of project in each and every Russian city with up to 1 million citizens in order to create a powerful hardware-community, leveraging Russian engineering experience and know-how,” they said.

Among the first international partners of Navigator Campus is Hax Asia, a hardware startup accelerator just launched in Singapore. 

2014-02-21, East West Digital News, Adrien Henni.

Keywords: robots, Tatarstan, startups, Almaz Capital Partners, Runa Capital, startup acceleration, Grishin Robotics, QWave

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