When my classmate Andrei Baronov and I started working in the newly born IT sphere, no one helped us with money or advice. That’s why our first project, an online store selling American computer components in Russia, actually failed. Then, in 1996, in Russia there were practically no Internet users, and those that were – had not figured out how to make purchases through the Internet. I myself made the first purchase on the Internet only in 1999.
As a result, it became clear to us that the skill of writing utilities for Windows, acquired by Andrew during the development of the store, was more useful than the trade itself. After that, we started developing software, and we succeeded.
If in 1996 we could consult with experienced venture specialists – our path to success could be less twisted. After all, they would immediately tell us that the heyday of online stores will come a little later. It is very important for IT companies not only to create a good product, but also to present it at the right time in the right place. Even the best product, which appeared a little earlier or later than necessary, has no chance of “shooting.”
Nowadays, Russian IT start-ups are spared such difficulties. They can apply for help to many venture funds, including ours with Andrey ABRT.
Immediately I will say that investors do not invest in projects on emotions, they are useless to try to impress with bright presentations and loud promises. The funds are working purely pragmatic people who know how to objectively assess the ideas of start-ups. On the other hand, it is also not necessary to prepare a large number of serious multipage documents. It’s enough just to clearly describe your project, to indicate at what stage it is (is it just an idea or a project already implemented and sold?). And, of course, give the fund a clear estimate – how much money you need, what they will be spent on, from where it is planned to receive income in the future.
At the same time, the most important thing is to actively work on your project, believe in it, tirelessly eliminate flaws and add additional options. If you work successfully enough, then there is a possibility that you do not even have to turn to anyone. Investors will find you yourself.
It is more advantageous to get into the field of view of Western funds, since they are longer on the market and have more experience. Well, it’s over, Western funds will help start-ups to enter the world market. However, if your project is focused exclusively on Russia – there is still a chance to find a foreign fund that you are interested in.
We in ABRT cooperate with many Western partners and implement joint projects aimed at Russia and the CIS countries. And sometimes foreign funds turn to us for consultations, not formalizing a formal partnership. They ask to talk about the local market, answer some questions, assess the prospects of a particular project.
Some beginning IT-businessmen believe that it is more profitable not to look for an investor in Russia, but immediately go to the Silicon Valley and already there to establish links with local funds. I would say that if you think your project is really promising – then this is a good idea. However, before the trip you need to prepare well, sign up for the conferences in the valley, study the specifics of the funds and choose those that are more likely to be interested in your proposals.
In recent years, the Russian venture market has been developing very actively, investors’ interest in Russian IT projects has steadily increased. Then came a certain stagnation, obviously connected with geopolitical changes. Investing in Russia has become more dangerous than before. Sometimes it is easier to find start-ups with similar ideas in countries where the situation is more favorable for business.
However, this does not mean that investors refuse to cooperate with Russians massively. They only undertake additional efforts to minimize risks. Talented start-ups still have every chance of finding a fund that will be interested in their project.