Opera Software, the Norwegian browser software publisher, announced the results of its Opera Startup Awards contest this Tuesday. The competition, intended to reveal the best Russian student startups, was conducted by Opera Software in partnership with the St. Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics and its affiliated business incubator ‘Quattuor Dimensionis’ (QD).
The contest attracted 17 teams with participants between the ages of 20 and 30 from across Russia. Following the first round of competition in April, seven teams moved on, receiving an opportunity to improve their projects within the walls of the QD incubator from May to October. Ultimately, the top three projects were selected by the contest’s panel of expert judges.
The first prize went to Goodroads, a mobile mapping service that collects data about road surface quality. The project was presented by a team from the St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University.
Online ordering service E-Cook, from Krasnodar, received the second prize. With the application, users can order meals at venues ahead of time and have their food ready by the time they arrive at a restaurant or they can have meals delivered to their homes.
The third prize was shared by two team projects. One was Kwenda, a travel planning service focusing on scenic locations developed by students of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. The other was proFeedback, a browser extension that allows users to comment on and rate websites and individual web pages.
Opera Software also awarded separate cash grants to three teams which intergrated Opera technologies in their projects. E-Cook, proFeedback, and Drugovod, a service developed by a St. Petersburg team which allows users to import contacts from social networks onto mobile devices and set up automatic greetings on birthdays and other occasions. The developers of proFeedback also received an invitation for a summer internship at Opera Software headquarters in Oslo.
Just days after Texdrive, Russia’s first international startup accelerator, opened in Moscow, the St. Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics (ITMO) announced in late October the creation of its own startup accelerator in partnership with US venture fund RSV Venture Partners.
Operations will start early in 2012 at the university-hosted startup accelerator, ITMO’s Public Relations manager Yury Shkolnikov told East-West Digital News.
Each startup will benefit from a 3 to 4 month training and mentorship program with the participation of such US and Russian entrepreneurs as US veteran tech investor Esther Dyson, Evernote co-founder Stepan Pachikov, and IBS Group chairman Anatoly Karachinsky, Shkolnikov said.
Selected projects will also receive initial funding of up to $20,000. The best ones will benefit from further financial support of up to $500,000 from the accelerator and possibly other investment partners.
The accelerator’s available funding will total $6 million, of which $1 million will be spent on startups at the seed stage over three years and $5 million will finance later-stage startups, possibly including some startups initially founded outside the accelerator, RSV managing partner Michael Averbach explained to EWDN.
A leading school in information and optical technologies, ITMO claims to be one of the top 12 universities in the Russian Federation. Together with its affiliated business incubator ‘Quattuor Dimensionis,’ ITMO recently hosted a student startup competition in partnership with Norwegian browser software publisher Opera Software.
RSV Venture Partners was created earlier this year by US investors and ITMO University. It focuses on Russian tech companies in their early stages.
Russian Navigation Technologies (RNT), a leading manufacturer and integrator of fleet management solutions and other telematics systems, is continuing its international expansion. The company is holding buyout talks with several Eastern European firms to enter the regional market, RNT General Manager Ivan Nechaev told CNews.ru, a resource covering the IT and telecom markets.
The acquisition of an existing telematics systems company in Eastern Europe would be the best way for RNT to enter Eastern Europe’s otherwise saturated market, Nechaev explained.
RNT is also interested in the US market, where it is seeking a partner to cosponsor its services. The penetration of remote fleet management services in the United States is only a modest 18-22% in the field of commercial transport, according to the company.
The company’s Auto Tracker technology supports both the GLONASS and GPS navigation systems. RNT received support from the Russian government via its affiliated financial structures VTB, a leading bank, and the Russian Venture Company (RVC), the fund of funds dedicated to fostering innovation in Russia.
RNT’s net profit totaled 78.1 million rubles, or $2.6 million, on revenue of 446 million rubles, or $14.6 million, in 2010. Shares of the company began trading on MICEX, the Moscow stock exchange, in July of 2010.
Earlier this year, RNT announced that the story of its formation and growth has been used as a case study in business courses at Stanford and several other US universities.
RNT currently has representative offices in Egypt and Ukraine. The firm also operates in other former Soviet republics as well as in several Asian, Latin American, and North African countries. However, revenues from RNT’s international operations accounted for only 5% of all its revenues in 2010.
Mobile traffic on Opera Software’s mobile browsers in Russia increased by 141.6% from September 2010 to September 2011, while the number of users in the country grew by 44%. These figures were disclosed yesterday in an exchange between Russian business daily RBC Daily and Lars Boilsen, CEO of the Norwegian company.
The Opera browser, a free software, is used by 17 million Russians monthly, representing a 67% market share, according to web analytics company StatCounter. While mobile broadband is still underdeveloped in the country, users enjoy the browser’s compression capacity which lowers their mobile data traffic.
Opera hopes its application store, driven by strong growth on the Russian and Indian markets, will affirm itself against such giants as Apple, Android, Nokia and Blackberry. Boilsen ambitiously expects Opera will become the third most popular application store by number of downloads in the world as early as next year, RBC reported him as saying.
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Russian search giant Yandex is holding talks with Russian banks to negotiate the sale of a stake in its e-currency service Yandex.Dengi (Yandex Money), said Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh in an exchange with journalists last week.
Yandex is considering the move as a means of compliance with new legislation on payments systemspassed in the Russian Duma in June of this year. The law stipulates that electronic payment activity be conducted only by credit organizations, including non-banking ones.
Yandex.Dengi PR manager Asya Melkumova could not say whether or not a controlling stake might be sold in an effort to keep the service within the new norms. The company is also considering, however, ”going through the procedure to get the required credit organization status, or acquiring a bank or a credit company,” options that would also allow Yandex.Dengi to conform with the new law, she explained to East-West Digital News.
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