With the ongoing political and economic developments of the region, Eastern Europe is becoming an increasingly important part of the global tech business scene, while at the same time relatively few news stories from countries to the East from Germany reach the wide audience. Here, I’ll sum up some of the most important news from the Eastern European tech industry in November.
Conferences and awards
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
November, and especially its second half was densely packed with conferences and award ceremonies of all kinds for tech companies and startups. Helsinki’s Slush 2013, despite not being held in Eastern Europe, attracted quite a few notable teams from the region. Among them was the winner of the conference’s pitch competition, Estonia’s Weekdone, which offers an elegant solution for staff management.
A few days after Slush, the conference marathon was continued by How to Web, a two-day event that took place in Bucharest, Romania. The winner of its startup competition — and what tech conference nowadays doesn’t have one? — was Bulgarian biotech project Smart Hand together with seven other finalists, who all went away with cash prizes.
Among other notable events of November were Belgrade Venture Forum with its winner Strawberry Energy from Serbia; Slovak Startup Awards with four winners; Startup Open conquered by adorable Teddy the Guardian from Croatia, as well as LAUNCHub Long Weekend, which has yet to announce the winners among 13 shortlisted startups.
In the news
Many news stories coming from the East lately were from Russia, especially those with headlines containing huge amounts of money. The biggest one was apparently the news that Skolkovo, a government-backed tech hub in outskirts of Moscow, was accused of misspending $3.9 billion. The list of ways the money was allegedly misused includes seven points, which boil down to all kinds of corruption and kickbacks.
In more optimistic money-related news, a US-headquartered startup with Russian roots, Acumatica, has raised a $10 million Series C round led by its existing Russian investors, Runa Capital and Almaz Capital. The company provides SaaS ERP solutions for businesses and plans to hit $1 billion in revenue within the next 10 years.
In the middle of November, the tech world finally saw the hatching of a website at the domain My.com, which was bought a year ago by Russian Internet group Mail.Ru Group for alleged $5 million. What the Russian online behemoth presented to the US audience turned to be a suite of mobile apps for email, instant messaging, and gaming.
Another positive piece of news for those who watch how the startup infrastructure is developing in Eastern Europe is that Startupbootcamp, a well-known acceleration program, is coming to Moscow in 2014. According to the accelerator’s adviser and mentor Joshua Bower-Saul, among its possible areas of interest are financial tech, integrated transport, digital health and agricultural technologies.
In Ukraine, right next from Russia to the South-West, November on the tech scene was marked (apart from enormous political protests breaking in the country) by the launch of a new VC fund Bull Ventures with $10 million under management. The new player was founded by Russia’s Flint Management, and started out by pouring an undisclosed sum into Ukrainian startup Eurobox. This project is a network of post terminals, to which purchases from online shops can be delivered to be paid for by customers on the spot.
One more reason for Ukrainian startup community to celebrate was a huge success of PetCube, a local startup that raised $251,000 in a Kickstarter campaign, which to date is the biggest amount of crowdfunding for the country’s projects. Featured by many a tech publication, the startup is going to produce a remotely controlled laser toy for the times when you can’t play with your pets in person.
What to expect
The two-week long hibernation that tech businesses fall into in the end of December is almost upon us, but there’s still something to look forward to. This week, the Ukrainian capital Kyiv will host an inaugural Startup AddVenture conference, which will be closely followed by TechCrunch Moscow on December 8—9 and a demo day at Hub:raum accelerator in Krakow, Poland on December 7.
And one more thing. If you’re a hacker, you’ve got a chance to get $25,000 from Hungarian “security freaks,” who offer the money to the person able to crack their startup’s cyber defenses. The hunt begins on December 11, advance registration needed.
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