City Spotlight – St. Petersburg takes its place as Russia’s leading tech hub

st petersburg
st petersburg

Yakov Sadchikov is founder and CEO of visual search engine Quintura and former founder of RussiaDeal. He’s brought his expertise of the Russian startup scene to various articles in VentureVillage and spent his student days in St Petersburg – here’s his take on this jewel of the Russian scene.

st petersburg

Founded by the Tsar Peter in 1703, St Petersburg emerged as the capital of the Russian Empire in the 18th century. Referred to as the “Russian Versailles”, Peter the Great’s summer residence, Peterhof Palace, is a must-have site to visit for anyone who comes to St Petersburg.

Three hundred years later, Russia’s second-largest city St Petersburg is taking on capital Moscow to become the country’s leading technology hub. The emergence of St. Petersburg as Russia’s tech capital is down to the city’s practical blend of skilled engineers and low overheads compared to Moscow. Engineers graduate from top universities such as the St Petersburg State University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics (ITMO) and St Petersburg State Polytechnical University. The ITMO students’ team won the World Championship in programming (ACM Intercollegiate Programming Contest) in Warsaw in May this year so this is some indication of the calibre of graduates.

Want fast-growing internet ventures?

marinaWant a fast-growing Russian internet company from St Petersburg? Funded by VTB Capital and Mangrove, the online hotel booking service (headed by Marina Kolesnik, left) has been fast in signing up the largest database of the Russian hotels in the country. The online school service is already used by more than 30 percent of 60,000 schools in Russia while SPB TV allows millions of smartphone users to watch TV channels on the move.


Want startup success stories?

The mobile user interface maker SPB Software was acquired by Yandex Ventures for $38 million in 2011. Aelita Software, whose R&D department was based in St Petersburg, was sold to Quest Software for $115 million and German venture capital firm Quadriga made more than ten times cash it invested in the “Nuance of Russia”, Speech Technology Center (STC).

Want a billion-dollar Russian internet IPO candidate?

VK (Vkontakte), the leading Russian social network, was created in S. Petersburg in 2006. With over 50 million monthly users in Russia and abroad, VK make revenues of over $100 million per year. It’s the only candidate that could potentially be looking at a Facebook-style stock-market scrum.

Want global technology companies investing in St Petersburg talent?

Both listed on New York Stock Exchange, the Russian search engine company Yandex and the US/Belarus/Russia-based EPAM have software engineering centers in St Petersburg. US tech giants Google, Intel and Oracle also have software development offices in the city, while global custom software development firm DataArt, software development outsourcing provider Reksoft and virtualisation management and backup software vendor Veeam Software all hail from the city.

Want a top tech incubator?



The internet business incubator Ingria currently hosts 80 resident companies and still has ambitious development plans. They raised $12 million in outside funding in 2011, with notabl residents including ResumUPITMozgKuponGid and RubicPro (Web-Notifier). In November 2012, the Web Ready contest for internet and mobile ventures will be held in St. Petersburg in partnership with Ingria. The applications are open until mid October.

What St Petersburg still lacks, however, is the presence of major venture capital. For now, if you want funding, you’ll have to hop aboard the high-speed Sapsan train for the four-hour trip to Moscow to pitch.

St Petersburg hotspots

ginzaOf course, after a hard day of deal-making you want somewhere stylish to wind down, and St Petersburg has no short supply of luxurious bars and meeting spots. Try Vozduh Project, Duhless and Circus Club for dancing the night away or the Ginza Project Restaurant (pictured) for fine dining…

For further reading check out:

City Spotlight – Moscow. Ozon CEO Maelle Gavet talks startups, Russian paperwork and cocktails in chocolate factories

Russia’s Fast Lane Ventures – talking copycats and stereotypes with CEO Marina Treshchova