E. Inozemtseva: “The online format of Startup Village offers a host of new opportunities”
Exactly one week remains before the launch of Startup Village Livestream'20, which the organizers call “one of the first virtual conferences in Russia and the major free technology event of the year”. In the year of the 10th anniversary of Skolkovo, the conference organized by the Foundation will be held for the eighth time and for the first time in an online format.
The transition to a virtual platform has become one of the reasons for a significant growth in audience interest in Startup Village Livestream'20. Around 9,000 people registered for the conference two weeks before it was due to be held on May 21–22, mentioned Skolkovo Forum Chief Executive Officer Ekaterina Inozemtseva, when talking to Sk.ru. Usually, the organizers would record such figures a few days before the event. However, the impressive number of registrations for Startup Village Livestream'20 has another explanation, highlights the representative of Sk.ru: “This suggests that people know about our event, that it is of interest to them, and that it has provided confirmed benefits for the technology community in the previous years.”
The decision to convert Startup Village into an online format was made for understandable reasons – the current restrictions on mass events due to the coronavirus. “At the same time,” continues Inozemtseva, “from a technological perspective, we have long been ready to hold the conference in an online format, which provides a host of new opportunities.”
First, a much larger number of people will be able to attend the event, albeit virtually, than in the previous seven years in which Startup Village was held in Skolkovo offline. “If we usually have about 15,000 visitors, this year we expect a significantly higher attendance. For many people, the online format means they no longer need to buy a plane or train ticket and travel to distant Skolkovo in order to enjoy all the opportunities that the platform provides. Instead, you only need to go to the website https://startupvillage.ru.”
Secondly, the organizers managed to attract a much larger number of interesting speakers, whose schedule is made up a long time in advance. “We will have about 150 speakers in total, a third of them being foreign experts and investors. Moreover, this brings us back to the pros of the online format – now speakers don't have to find several days in their busy schedule to participate in one or two Startup Village sessions. They simply have to go on air at the appointed time and talk about their own vision of technological trends and promising developments.”
It is important for us to not only preserve the traditional conference formats within the framework of the digital Startup Village, but also make them as interesting as possible. So, the business program of the conference remains as usual, and will run simultaneously on four stages. “Given that this is an online format that does not involve lengthy discussions, we reduced the discussion to 25–30 minutes and limited the number of participants to three or four. All our sessions will be very dynamic,” promises Ekaterina Inozemtseva. “And this allowed us to fill up the program even more and invite even more speakers to participate.”
An important feature of Startup Village has also remained in an online format – the startup project competition. This year more than 800 applications were submitted, which allowed the organizers to select the highest quality projects to go through to the semifinals. The competition will be held outside the main program of Startup Village Livestream'20, and the most interesting stage – the battle for prizes – will be broadcast online during the conference.
“We will have not one but four finals in the relevant technological areas: IT, BioTech, Industrial Tech, and Energy Tech. The winner in first place will receive 3 million rubles, in second place – 2 million, and in third place – 1 million rubles. Therefore, the total prize fund of Startup Village-2020 will amount to 24 million rubles. This will be a very intense competition,” predicts Ekaterina Inozemtseva, “because the large number of applications received allowed us to pick a selection of really strong projects.”
Just like at the regular Startup Village, the digital platform will host Startup Bazaar, an interactive project exhibition in which around 200 young teams will present promising Russian technological developments, from the prototype to the finished product. Visitors will be able to go to any developer's virtual booth that is of interest to them, find materials describing the technology, product or development, and talk with the exhibitors, both in the chat mode and in the video conference format. In terms of startup presentations, the CEO of Skolkovo Forum does not rule out the possibility that the virtual exhibition becomes even more informative than the offline version.
“Our partners' booths will also be presented at the exhibition,” she adds. “Each of them is unique, with its own content. Come in, see, don't miss it – it will definitely be interesting.”
One of the components of Startup Village is the interaction and communication between participants. The communication “glue” that holds the conference participants together will be the SUV Matchmaking technology solution. It will make it possible for any participant to start a chat with an investor, speaker, startup or corporate representative in their personal account. “You can and should sign up for mentoring sessions even now,” urges Ekaterina Inozemtseva. “Over 30 mentors have confirmed their participation in Startup Village Livestream'20. By submitting applications, you have the unique opportunity to communicate with the mentor face-to-face and get feedback.”
Two weeks before the event, more than a thousand registered participants announced their willingness to invest in a project of interest. This means that Startup Village continues to generate a lot of interest from the investment community. The conclusion, as Ekaterina Inozemtseva emphasizes, is clear: “If you are a startup, do not miss our event, investors are to be found here. If you are an investor, do not miss our event, because our participants will include developers of the coolest technological solutions around, and not only from Russia. This year, many major conferences focused on the startup community have been canceled. We decided to invite the typical audience that usually attends these events, and I am sure that a large number of foreign exhibitors and visitors to the exhibition, business program and project competition will spend some time on our website during the days of Startup Village Livestream'20,” Ekaterina Inozemtseva predicts.
As for the team of Startup Village Livestream'20 organizers, they faced a lot of unusual challenges while preparing for the virtual conference. “Holding an online event is not like simply moving an offline event to a website,” said the Skolkovo Forum Chief Executive Officer. “This is a very different story, which requires a different focus.” The result was a business program structure that differed from previous events, which serves to make Startup Village Livestream’20 more dynamic.
Another example is that the semifinals of the project competition were rescheduled to take place outside of the two main conference days in order to keep the attention of the online audience. TV directors were invited to participate in the process of envisioning the broadcast of the final. “Together we determined how to make the final of the competition more impressive and dynamic. Another very interesting task was related to the virtual exhibition. How could we prevent a page of 200 exhibitors from turning into a cemetery of logos? As a result, we came up with the idea of a 3D-drawn exhibition with convenient features of online solutions such as filtering, quick search by specified criteria, and many others,” says Ekaterina Inozemtseva.