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Stock market rates of return predictor wins prize at Startup Village by the Sea

Startup Village by the Sea, which was being held for the first time, is now set to become an annual tradition

Sep 22, 2016
Budding tech entrepreneurs from across Russia’s Far East gathered in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok on Thursday for Startup Village by the Sea, an event organised by the Skolkovo Foundation with the aim of propelling young startups towards commercial success and inspiring science and tech specialists to form their own enterprises.

Fourteen hopefuls selected from more than 400 who had registered for the event presented their projects in short pitches before an international jury at the city’s 7 Foot yacht club, as luxury vessels glided past the windows. Six startup projects were then selected for the final, all of which received some intensive mentoring from business coaches representing Finland’s Startup Sauna, a five-week accelerator programme that helped to organise the event. Following the coaching, three winning projects were selected, and the teams responsible for those ideas won tickets to Slush, an annual large-scale tech entrepreneurship event held in Helsinki in November.

Of the three winners, two are already residents of the Skolkovo Foundation. The third, a company named Optiaks founded in the Khabarovsk region, intends to get residency status by the end of this year for its system that uses artificial intelligence to predict stock market indexes.

"It’s a young team, a startup in its truest form," Yury Sibirsky, deputy head of Skolkovo’s branch in the Far East, said of Optiaks.

"Having a background not only in finance, but also in mathematics, they are creating a self-learning system for predicting rates of return that is more accurate than traditional methods," he said.

"And they are not making a tool for hedge funds, which use robot-traders anyway: they want to enter the B2C market, and envisage as their clients regular people, mainly young people, who will be able to deal in stocks and securities with the help of this tool. It’s a really interesting and ambitious project," said Sibirsky.

The other two winners of Slush tickets were Softvellum, which makes a video-streaming platform that is already sold around the world and allows users to monetize their content more efficiently than other platforms, and Nastek, which makes positional tracking technologies for virtual reality. To make its positioning more accurate, Nastek uses magnetic tracking rather than the optical tracking generally used, said Sibirsky.

Sibirsky was one of the members of the jury, along with representatives of Skolkovo’s partner companies in the Far East, and four intrepid Finnish mentors from Startup Sauna and Slush who had made the journey of more than 10,000 kilometres from Helsinki to Vladivostok to share their experience with hopeful entrepreneurs in Russia’s Far East.

One of those mentors, Aape Pohjavirta – who also founded Funzi, a company that produces mobile learning technology – praised the solid scientific knowledge behind the inventions being presented. He said areas with room for improvement were the entrepreneurs’ knowledge of English and their communication skills, in particular at an international level.

Startup Village by the Sea, which was being held for the first time, is now set to become an annual tradition, said Skolkovo’s vice president for advertising and external communications, Alexander Chernov, who moderated the event.

The Skolkovo Foundation’s Far East office currently has about 30 startups under its wing – more than twice as many as expected when the office opened last year. The foundation, which is headquartered on the outskirts of Moscow, fosters a total of about 1,500 companies with the aim of creating an innovations-based economy in Russia.