Russian Silicon Valley

Russian Silicon Valley
by Daniel Nenni on 11-14-2010 at 6:22 pm

In case you missed it, last June Dmitry Medvedev (the 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] President of Russia) visited Northern California to better understand and hopefully replicate the success of Silicon Valley in Russia. Last month Governor Schwarzenegger returned the favor by visiting Moscow with a delegate of Silicon Valley business leaders and venture capitalists. My trip to Russia last week had nothing to do with any of this but that will not stop me from implying that it did.

Moscow is a long trip from San Francisco especially when you are flying United Airlines. Bad food, bad service, bad seating, it has been a while since I have flown UAL and hopefully it will be a long time before I do it again. The only upside is that the United flight crew made me look young!

In case you missed it, last June Dmitry Medvedev (the 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] President of Russia) visited Northern California to better understand and hopefully replicate the success of Silicon Valley in Russia. Last month Governor Schwarzenegger returned the favor by visiting Moscow with a delegate of Silicon Valley business leaders and venture capitalists. My trip to Russia last week had nothing to do with any of this but that will not stop me from implying that it did.

Moscow is a long trip from San Francisco especially when you are flying United Airlines. Bad food, bad service, bad seating, it has been a while since I have flown UAL and hopefully it will be a long time before I do it again. The only upside is that the United flight crew made me look young!

Russia already has a “Silicon Valley” by the way, which is in Zelenongrad and that is where I stayed. Zelenongrad is the home of the Moscow Institute of Electronic Technologies (MIET), one of leading microelectronics research universities, and two semiconductor fabs (I toured Mikron). The new Russian Silicon Valley that President Medvedev is championing is located in Skolkovo and will be appropriately named The Skolkovo Innovation Center. Silicon Valley has had many rivals inside and outside the United States none of which have really lived up to the name. So why would Skolkovo be any different? Can Russia really be a technology superpower? Absolutely!

Witnessing the first snow fall in Moscow was entertaining. They call it “repairman day” (loosely translated), which means the auto body shops get lots of business. To make things worse, if you get in an accident in Russia you cannot move your car until the police or insurance investigators arrive to take a report. This certainly deters fraud but it also causes traffic jams that take hours to clear. Luckily I had a driver that knew the back roads and was not shy about it so car travel was not a problem.

President Medvedev’s strategy is simple: As Russia transforms from a raw materials economy to a technology based economy the semiconductor industry will provide the platform for a broad base of applications. The semiconductor industry is the core of modernization which is key to infrastructure restoration. The potential of the Russian market is defined by the population size (140M+), the total acreage (Russia is the largest country in the world), and the current geopolitical positioning of Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev. The result being explosive growth potential for the Russian semiconductor industry!

The trip ended with a tour of Moscow, a delicious Russian dinner, and shots of vodka. The only downside to the trip is that cigarette smoking runs rampant in Russia. This will not only stunt economic growth, it will also place an unnecessary burden on the already fragile Russian health care system. The flight home was uneventful except for a minor flight delay and a beautiful Russian woman that sat next to me. Travel tip: To minimize jet lag do not eat airline food, drink a bottle or two of water, and sit next to a beautiful Russian woman. Believe it!


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