How did you apply for Professional Fellowship Program?
First of all It was required to send a motivation letter in which participants were supposed to fill in their professional background and describe their personal traits. We also passed TOEFL and had an oral interview. Having analyzed our purposes and abilities the organizers appointed appropriate accelerators. Being a specialist in innovative entrepreneurship support and university-based accelerators` promotion I followed my training at a female entrepreneurs' business accelerator Hera Labs. Such organizations have no analogues in Russia. They includes successful women who developed their own projects.
Please share the details of your internship.
The first week we spent in Washington, D.C., where we attended lectures on the innovative ecosystem of the USA. Then participants went to different accelerators. Thus I continued my training in San Diego where Hera Labs was situated. Under the leadership of the supervisor I took part in business meetings and conferences, as well as followed trainings on marketing, internet promotion, business development and so forth. The program of the training was very interesting and motley. Such activities as, for example, a jokey pitch and a brainstorm session were very popular. I also took part in a startup-weekend, which gave me an opportunity to learn more about American startup culture.
Please tell us what is a women accelerator?
These startups are headed by women but men also can take part in them. They have only one distinctive feature: apart from common events and training courses these accelerators include activities that aim to support the idea of female entrepreneurship.
What is the difference between Russian and American innovative ecosystems?
Americans are open and outgoing. It is very easy for them to make new contacts. Russians society has lower level of personal communications that is why it is a great challenge to look for partners. Americans set a rule that all startups had to negotiate with 25 potential partners per week. It seems almost unreal for our country. Currently we change it by providing communicative-oriented meetings so as to solve this problem. One more distinction is that Americans are tolerant towards failures. They take it in their stride when only 10 teams out of 30 accelerator participants succeeded.
Some Russian colleagues were surprised by American approach to startups. Most of them are quite simple. For example, a system, which provides sunlights so as to illuminate darkest spaces of a room, attracted lots of inventors. I discussed this issue with American colleagues. One of them said that Americans developed those projects that was easy to be implemented into the market. Russians follow other way. They want to launch missiles. I suppose it is a fair point.
What activities do you want to use at ITMO University?
I have lots of ideas. I think that some practices and activities can be provided at ITMO University. For example, we used to organize teams consisted of specialists in different fields. Americans refused this approach because when engineers launch their projects they suppose that the assistance of marketing experts is not necessary. Furthermore, taking part in startups managers try to become leaders. That is why our American colleagues decided to charge engineers with market research and communication with clients. Thus the inventor has to understand what clients will use his product and how it should be promoted. Even after that he gets an opportunity to hire a marketing expert. Furthermore American experts won`t develop a projects if its` head don`t invest his own money. One more distinctive feature of American innovative ecosystem is that startupers often use crowdfunding services. I think that all this things can be used in Russia.
Did you enjoy Professional Fellowship Program?
The six-week internship gave rise to a lot of useful contacts. I met colleagues and potential partners from all over the world. All these meetings can be useful for international development of ITMO University.