An educational program for students and young entrepreneurs was held at Vologda Cooperative College last weekend during which participants learned about approaches to developing their business ideas, they formed teams, worked on projects under the guidance of experienced mentors and presented their results at a final presentation session. The event was attended by over 150 students from Vologda, Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kaliningrad regions, who submitted more than 50 project ideas, seventeen of which made it to the final presentations.

The start-up weekend began with a meeting with successful local entrepreneur Anton Botvin, founder of the Новостройка and projects, who explained that doing business in Vologda is quite realistic. It’s situated between two of Russia’s largest cities so it’s easy to travel there. It’s also not so crowded so one would prefer to run a business and live there than to move to Moscow or St. Petersburg. The first day continued with a presentation on the innovation ecosystem and opportunities for business development in Russia from a representative of the Internet Initiatives Development Fund, Anna Moiseeva and lectures on goal setting from Elena Gavrilova. Mikhail Erman, the director of HSE Business Incubator talked about the generation of ideas and Anna Brusnitsyna from Our Future regional social programmes fund shared about team building.

“IT-Start in Vologda gathered a large number of students of technical specialities. At first they were shy and tried to avoid answering questions, and didn’t get involved in the discussion. But on the second day, when we started doing practice, they had to start asking questions. Of course, not all projects will be implemented but the most important thing is that only the best ones were selected and the social entrepreneurial project applied for IT was among them.” shared Anna Brusnitsyna.

United around the most interesting ideas, they continued their work in teams on the second day of the startup weekend. First, the experts of ITMO University Business incubator, Internet Initiatives Development Fund (IIDF), HSE Business Incubator and the Our Future Fund shared with the participants business model methods, client search, hypothesis testing for the project, creation of effective landing pages, and gave advice on forming effective final presentations. Then the newly formed start-up teams began to develop their ideas further: they arranged interviews with potential clients, created landing pages, held brainstorming sessions on business models and shot videos for their final project presentations.

“This school, judging by the responses of the participants, really changes their perspective on business and helps them build the correct sequence of steps to do a technology startup. My main positive impression of the school in Vologda was the involvement of the participants in practical work: more than 80 participants, in order to complete their tasks, left the building to meet potential clients.” – explained Mikhail Erman, who is an expert of the IT-Start contest for the third year already.

Seventeen projects made it to the finals, in various fields. Such projects were a device for brewing tea to a specific temperature, a service for creating a list of gifts, some mobile games, and others. One of the Vologda teams rather than presenting his project made a film clip and received the audience award.

The prizes were a trip to Israel, Singapore or Finland. The finalists were three projects: a neurocomputer network which is already earning money for its services, KindBrain brain computer interface to control home devices for people suffering from paralysis, and an online platform, for converting Cherepovets Babushkas into nannies. There were also special prizes from contest partners, MTC. The prize was received by a telephone chargers project who created a charger in the form of a bracelet which uses different types of alternative energy and service call backs with the use of PonyCallback mobile company.

The most important thing that the start-up weekend helped us to create was a comfortable atmosphere so that school students and university students could take the first step in the business world. ITMO University plans to continue to stimulate the development of entrepreneurship, support active youth and communicate accumulated experience into the regions of our country. In some regions, for example, in Vologda, we are implementing this initiative together with our partners, who already work there: in this case it is the IT-Start competition from the Agency of Innovation and Development. After participating in the training and selecting of projects, I can confidently say – there is a result! To be honest, working with the student teams over the first two days, I couldn’t even imagine how dramatic the changes would be in the projects and the participants themselves and how high-quality and sophisticated their ideas would become in the final session. Such results are the best reward for ITMO University’s team and stimulate us to develop this initiative in other regions”, commented Elena Gavrilova, the Deputy CEO of ITMO University’s Business Incubator.

The following inter-regional network program start-up school event with the function of an accelerator is planned in Yaroslavl, Crimea, Kazan and other regions of the country. Detailed information can be found on the website of ITMO University’s Project Management and Innovation Department.