25th Jun. '12
I was born in Moscow, but have lived almost all my life in Europe – growing up, studying, building my career. Having moved to Moscow only a few months back to work for Skolkovo, I am quickly noticing something of a split personality phenomenon: the Westerner in me is wondering and questioning many of the things I see, and the Russian, who understands by both experience and intuition how this part of the world thinks, functions and lives. Being a young, under thirty leader myself, this internal dialog has received a new outlet at the Youth Economic Forum in St. Petersburg – via the lens of leadership.
Before the Forum I had an interesting discussion with a colleague from Finland and asked him what does he believe the world expects from young leaders of today’s Russia? The immediate response was: transparency, responsibility and honesty. Looking at the young faces crafting the future of Russia at the Forum workshops, I realize that this need might just be met. Giving an extra boost to the matter is the fact that only in Russia I have seen this many young professionals holding high-profile positions. In my opinion, this is remarkable. Having started from the ground up myself, great things are to be expected when youthful energy, talent and inspiration is put to good use within a position of power rather than constrained in the shadows of some simple clerical work often assigned to graduates entering the work life. The young leaders of Russia are truly given the chance to prove themselves and values they stand for.
The Youth Economic Forum in St.Petersburg rocked. Aside from the impeccable organization (a grand thanks to the organizers!), it is fantastic to see a new world unfold in front of your eyes with the diversity of backgrounds, cultures and talents placed in one room and inspired for results. The challenge was far from an easy one: how do you build an entrepreneurial society in Russia, moving the focus away from eternal discussion of all the challenges and “why not”s and into opportunities along with concrete action points? After all, all the ingredients are there: brilliant Russian scientists, passionate entrepreneurs, motivated students, committed leaders of the new generations.
With the participation to Forum being split by 50-50 Russian young leaders and the bright minds, students and entrepreneurs from abroad, it was agreed that to trigger the change and make entrepreneurial society a living and breathing reality, you need to take one step at a time. Out of the widest range of ideas the following was proposed:
1. What should Russia stop doing? Cancel visas. A small, but practical issue, which is more of an echo of the desire to make the bureaucracy in establishing and running a business more manageable – a critical point in attracting talented entrepreneurial spirits also from abroad and making the Russian entrepreneurial society truly international and integrated within the global world.
2. What should Russia continue doing? Provide networking platforms for entrepreneurs. Yes, there are already many events targeted at entrepreneurs taking place, but this is just the beginning. It is essential to develop and create new platforms, happenings, events that bring together startups, students, large companies, investors and everybody interested in or involved in the topic of entrepreneurship. Mentorship is another key aspect of networking platforms: while there is a culture of mentorship for startups by experienced business owners in many other entrepreneurial hot-spots around the world, this is still to be rooted in the Russian mentality and business practices.
3. What should Russia start doing? Bring 100 entrepreneurs from around the world to launch visionary startups in Russia. There is a high hope for the Russian entrepreneurial society to be born global, integrating both Russian startups internationally as well as welcoming the entrepreneurs from all other the world to Russia.
And would you like to know what leadership looks like in action?
The ideas flying in the air are great, but talk is cheap, and so, as an outcome of the Youth Economic Forum in St. Petersburg there are multiple commitments by world’s young leaders. Artem Fokin has committed to introduce fifteen Russian startups to angel investors in Silicon Valley. Alex Debelov will bring twenty entrepreneurs and investors from Silicon Valley to Russia and make it happen on 30 September for “Geeks on a Plane”-event in Moscow. Noga Ronen will connect Russian startups with the Israeli ones to form partnerships. Ankur Jain will launch Kairos Society, a global community of top student entrepreneurs and change makers, in Russia.
And now, action!
P.S. Get involved! What idea, action point or a commitment could you propose on your part to contribute to the development of entrepreneurial society in Russia?