There seems to be more venture capital than brilliant ideas on Russia's internet market. At the same time, many of brilliant ideas in the heads of talented people are destined to perish without a chance either because talented people cannot meet each other or because they cannot deliver their ideas in a form approachable for investors.
We have been experimenting with startups for a while and came to an understanding that currently the best format for a large internet company, such as Yandex, to interact with a bunch of passionate enthusiasts, such as startups, is a seed accelerator.
Seed accelerators are normally expected to contribute time and effort in exchange for equity. Not us. We are doing this for something other than money. The expertise and networking opportunities that we offer to young talent come with no strings attached.
We are inviting exceptionally talented project managers, developers, web designers, students working their paths in IT from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan or any other country (as long as they can speak Russian) to joyfully participate in a boot-camp for future ideas and projects – Tolstoy Summer Camp.
During the two months starting from the last week of June, following the application process and interviews in May and June, everyone accepted into the boot camp program will be able to benefit from the experience and expertise of the Yandex specialists who will work with participants as mentors, as well as from international guest lecturers in digital technology, mobile, marketing and communications. All participants will be eligible to a scholarship, while boot-campers from other cities will also have additional funding to cover their travel and living costs in Moscow.
With their mentors’ help, the Tolstoy Summer Camp participants will have ten days to come up with their ideas, build their teams and prove to other boot-campers that their ideas are viable. During the next stage, which will last twenty days, survivors of the first stage will hone their ideas, draw up business plans, sketch up prototypes, think of the market and audience and then will need to survive another presentation of their projects. The last stage will give participants time to develop their projects to the point of presenting them to potential investors on the Demo Day in September. We will be there for them and will hold their hand throughout the whole cycle – from idea through planning to attracting funding to launch.
The Demo Day will see venture investors, seed funds and partners, including SeedCamp, GrowthUp¸ Meta-Beta and Runa Capital, review the finalists and make their decisions about funding. Yandex will participate in the selection process on par with other investors.
Our goal at the end of Tolstoy Summer Camp is to have three to five strong startup teams with a solid background in technology equipped with well-thought-out ideas and carefully crafted business models, who can speak the same language as their potential investors.
We are interested in giving ideas an opportunity to materialise and see what becomes of them. Looking at potential investment opportunities together with other venture funds is especially attractive when these opportunities have been created with the help of our own experts and our partners. Yandex is also always interested in recruitment opportunities, and with Tolstoy Summer Camp showcasing participants' talent, skill and expertise, these opportunities will be aplenty. In addition, this boot-camp project gives us a chance to promote our technologies via API in the CIS countries, and possibly anywhere else.
Tolstoy Summer Camp is yet another step in Yandex’s program supporting up-and-coming projects and original ideas in IT. Depending on the outcome of this experiment, we will keep offering our help and advise to startups in one way or another.
Read more about Tolstoy Summer Camp and apply for participation here (in Russian).