Konstantin Parshin - Vice President of the Skolkovo Foundation, Executive Director of the Information Cluster
Prior to joining Skolkovo, he worked as a deputyDirector General, Director of New Business Development at ITAR-TASS, where he was responsible for the development strategy of the agency in the system of government bodies, public organizations and large businesses. He organized the development from scratch and the successful launch of a startup, the information-analytical product TASS-Business, tassbiz.ru.
Filter for startups, trends and subtechnologies
- There was a lot of talk about end-to-end technologies at CIPR - there is list out of nine. Which of them is the most advanced and interesting at the moment?
- First you need to deal with yourselfthe term "end-to-end technology". This is a fairly well-established value of any technology that is used in more than one industry. Therefore, there are many. If you take the Internet - this is also an end-to-end technology.
And at different moments, they were all somehowdriver of some new stage of development. Typically, a sign of end-to-end technology - the market very quickly begins to accept and develop it in completely different products, services and industries. Here it is just such a phenomenon that these nine cross-cutting technologies and other cross-cutting technologies develop themselves. Because they are so interesting to the market and contain great potential that either those companies that once were their developers or a new generation of technology companies who saw the potential of this end-to-end technology come to the market with their new products. Some of them are becoming successful, some are not, but still the market is promoting these technologies, developing them into some new products and services.
- If they develop themselves, then without development institutes, would they also do it?
- Yes, in theory, they develop themselves, and the roledevelopment institutions in many ways supporting. It is very important, in my opinion, but we do not create end-to-end technologies ourselves. That is, we must track the trends that exist on the market and focus on supporting end-to-end technologies that have the greatest potential. For us, one of the challenges is to correctly see these trends, catch and lay in those filters and technological priorities that our experts use when selecting startups.
- And how often do you update these filters?
- On average once a year, sometimes a little more.
- And what has changed in your filters over the past two years?
- We have added a lot of what is nowdiscussed here. That is, almost all end-to-end technologies from the list. This is artificial intelligence, and big data, and blockchain. It was clear that the market in this direction went a few years ago, and we added computer vision, added the use of these technologies in some specific sectors - for example, education or medicine. That is, they reached the level of subtechnologies.
A lot of added in the direction of virtualand augmented reality. I believe that in this area Skolkovo has one of the best centers of expertise on the market now, and in general, if you look at the portfolio of solutions of our participants, they are quite fully representing the set of products for which there is demand. That is why we believe that the Skolkovo Foundation is instrumentally very useful as a source of not just ideas, but already quite mature and ready-made technologies that are categorized as end-to-end and can quickly find their application in projects, industries, and regions.
- Are you looking for what exactly the Russian market, companies need, or are you still targeting Western markets that generate demand?
- The question is a little controversial, who goes ahead: West or East.
- Well, yes, the international market.
- If you take, for example, computervision, face recognition, leading companies are not in the West at all. Of course, our task is to focus on the best international level at the moment, to try to achieve it, and better to surpass it.
The rule of our experts isthat they answer including the question of comparison with international counterparts. We have a lot of potential projects that are submitted for the status of a participant and do not pass the examination, because experts believe that from an international point of view this is already a repetition of the path traveled, there is no innovation in the international sense. The argument that our task is to do it in Russia in the local market may be justified in some situations, but in most cases it will not. In order to create a truly successful IT product, you need to be competitive in the global market.
“Ideas cannot be patented in most cases.”
- Recently published study “Startup Barometer” - it states thatThe main number of start-ups in Russia either repeats the already existing technologies, or does something that is not in Russia, but already exists internationally. There are very few unique technologies that have potential. How hard is it to look for such startups?
- It is difficult, of course. The only thing - I want you to understand me correctly. We do not require proof from every company that they will become a new Facebook.
- Well, it is impossible to predict.
- Firstly, it is impossible to predict, secondly, we do not require this. It is more important to meet the modern level, the niche of those technologies that this company wants to create or develop.
The second answer is, of course, commercialization.this technology. Our experts always answer two types of questions: innovation and the potential of innovative development. The second is commercialization. And in any case, it is not even a Skolkovo question. Any investor of this company will always ask: guys, show me how you differ from competitors, where there is a long-term competitive advantage. We ask the same questions. Therefore, if there is a request on the market, to repeat some technologies or products that have been created somewhere, I partially agree that such an element of marketing and product development exists, but at the same time these products are still differentiated. I know very little products that would have been made as a carbon copy from some western or eastern counterpart.
Ideas cannot be patented in mostcases. Why not greet them? But in any case, we track the level of development. It definitely should not be yesterday afternoon. And, as a rule, in all such products there is necessarily some kind of its own feature, know-how, special positioning, which makes this product unique. A non-unique product is not viable in principle, regardless of whether it is a Skolkovo resident or not.
“Since we are in Innopolis, one cannot help asking: what is the competitive advantage of Skolkovo in this case, what can the Foundation offer to start-ups, what are the specifics?
- You know, this question sounds very often, andIt usually sounds from the media, not from startups. We should understand that for a country like ours, Innopolis, Skolkovo, similar centers established in St. Petersburg and a number of other regions are still a drop in the ocean. Can you imagine how the innovation infrastructure is organized in Israel, for example?
- In Israel, a lot more startups.
- And where did they come from? There are few people - 20 times less than in our country, and the infrastructure is the same in scale. Therefore, to that level, when we really begin to compete for something, it is still very far away. Rather, there is the opposite effect - the higher the presence of high-quality development institutions in the regions, the greater the chance that some ideas will be able to pass the most difficult, early stage of their development - before the first prototype and customer.
Our country is so arranged - many centersdecision-making are in the capitals, so companies can open their presence in Skolkovo and elsewhere. There are plenty of examples when the company developed in Innopolis, and then opened its representative office in Moscow. Or at the same time has the status of different legal entities. In fact, the same company is present in both locations.
We are extremely interested in the overall strategicAs a result, to create as many innovative startups in this country as possible so that a market demand for the consumption of these innovations is formed. Here we also have a common problem or a common task. It is about interaction with private corporations and state corporations. We are helping to sway market demand.
Business readiness for innovation, brain drain and technology exports
- Every state corporation now has a CDO position - do they directly understand that they need innovations? At what stage is this understanding and need for technology?
- The picture is very heterogeneous. Often it is a question of the identity of a particular manager, a team that is willing to take some risks and has quite serious ambitions. And, as with any change management process, there is always a part of the market that runs faster, ahead, and there are conservatives who hold on to the status quo for as long as possible. Therefore, there is probably no definitive answer in any percentage, temperature or other measured parameter, it is impossible to give. But the dynamics of the latter are definitely, perhaps, not five, but two years significantly different from what it was three or four years ago.
At least there is a request to find outand what else happens. The request “Let's try, we will conduct a pilot project” is now heard from almost all players. Then there is a certain stage of development of the change management infrastructure of the customers themselves, that is, how much their core business is ready to include some innovations in basic technological processes, how much they are willing to look for financing mechanisms, scaling up new developments, and how ready they are for this project-oriented change management approach . Here, rather, very much depends not even on the industry, but on a specific team. There are examples of customers who are role models for us - Gazprom Neft and, in general, a number of customers from the oil industry, SIBUR.
- Successful startups often leave after acceleration programs and support from development institutions. Do I need to change something in Russia so that they do not leave?
- In my opinion, something radically change,probably we do not need. You just have to understand that this is a normal process. Some people leave, some then return, and if we look at it in perspective, it’s not a fact that this is bad for the economy. Because it is a certain openness, an opportunity to introduce some innovations, which we do not have, from abroad here. I cannot say that today the “brain drain”, the export of our intellectual resources is our misfortune. People are leaving for the most part because of the impossibility of self-realization or some everyday stories. In Innopolis are quite normal conditions for living here. I think that the issue of leakage may be a little overstated historically as a big problem.
Secondly, a very important point. Even if you look at situations when a company opens an office abroad, some of the employees translate there, a different effect is much stronger. As a rule, it is still more profitable for these companies to develop in our country. Imagine another scenario. Yes, the company opened an office in Western Europe, America, entered large volumes, markets, but at the same time several hundred workplaces were created in Russia. I think that this is one of our target models, so that Russia develops as a market supplier of technologies, being their exporter.
And jobs really should bethe most attractive to create in Russia. Here the question is not even to Skolkovo, but to the state policy as a whole in the field of stimulating such kind of models. Now this situation does not look very frightening, there are a lot of such examples, so we are happy when the company succeeds in entering a large market, because we are almost sure: this will lead to the development of this area, including here in Russia.
Let's not forget that Russian itselfthe market still represents a fairly small share of the world market. Therefore, if we imagine that we want to create an advanced IT industry, focusing only on the domestic market, this task is simply not solved. There is a notorious example of Israel - there are startups there, the customers of which are the world's largest giants located in America and Europe. This has significantly affected the labor market and the creation of new jobs in Israel itself is rather a more positive factor.