Russian Startups Face Visa Hurdles to Compete in U.S. Business Contest
- RIA Novosti
- Jun. 21 2013 09:12
- Last edited 16:39
WASHINGTONá— Russian technology startups that were selected as finalists ináa prestigious U.S. business development competition might not be able toátake part ináthe months-long contest because ofávisa problems, theáhead ofáan investment company that is co-sponsoring theáevent said Thursday.
Four teams ofátwo Russians fromástartups developing apps toátry onáclothing virtually, aásystem toávisually organize documents, web andámobile analytics, andáa game toáteach computer programming are supposed toáarrive ináBoston on Monday foráthe start ofáthe MassChallenge Accelerator competition, said Axel Tillman, CEO of the RVC-USA investment firm, which has links toáRussian venture capital funds andáthe Skolkovo Innovation Center.
But three ofáthe four appear toáhave run intoávisa issues which might jeopardize their chances ofávying foráa share ofáthe $1 million ináprizes up forágrabs ináthe MassChallenge.
"The MassChallenge Accelerator requires about 4 1/2 months presence ináthe U.S., andáa normal business visa doesn't cover that," Tillman said byáphone fromáBoston, where theáMassChallenge competition is held.
"The Russians would have toáleave ináthe middle ofáthe competition, so I asked forápeople applying forávisas toátake part ináthe MassChallenge toábe granted aásix-month visa, but I haven't heard back fromáAmbassador McFaul," Tillman said, referring toáthe U.S. ambassador toáMoscow, Michael McFaul.
Tillman said theásolution toáthe visa issue would be toáinclude Russia ináthe U.S. visa waiver program, adding that theácurrent situation "makes foráa pretty lousy environment when you're trying toáimprove relations between theátwo countries."
Theáfour Russian teams that were selected as finalists ináthis year's MassChallenge have aágood chance ofátaking one ofáthe 20 prizes ofáup toá$100,000 that will be awarded toáthe winning businesses inálate October, Tillman said.
"All four Russian teams were ináthe top 10 to 20 percent ofáthe finalists, whereas last year, theáthree Russian teams that made it intoáthe accelerator phase ofáthe competition were ináthe bottom 10 percent, out ofá125 companies," Tillman said.
More than 1,200 startups fromá39 countries applied toátake part ináthis year's MassChallenge, with Russia fielding theásecond highest number ofáapplicants after theáUnited States. Fifty-four Russian startups applied toáget intoáthe competition, but only four made theágrade.
They were Dressformer, aátechnology platform that allows users toávirtually try onáclothing andáget feedback; Qbaka, which has developed aátool toátrack andáanalyze client-side web service problems atáall stages; Zet Universe, developer ofáa platform that allows businesses toávisually organize data; andáSputnikBot, maker ofáa game that teaches children computer programming.
Russian entries foráthe MassChallenge were up byá50 percent compared toálast year, highlighting "the growing traction ofáinnovation ináa country with aámarket economy just over 20 years old," RVC-USA said ináa statement.