Kazakhstan’s Top Startups to Be Developed in Silicon Valley

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s state agencies and leading national companies took part in a road show in California’s Silicon Valley in late March. Kazakhstan’s delegation had more than 40 meetings with American companies working in the field of power, information and communication technologies (ICT), electric car production, consumer electronics and energy saving technologies, and concluded a number of contracts. The show was organised by Kaznex Invest National Agency for Export and Investment of the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of Kazakhstan. Kazex Invest is the government agency responsible for promoting non-resource exports and attracting more foreign investment to the country.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and New Technologies Asset Issekeshev led Kazakhstan’s delegation. Vice Minister of Industry and New Technologies Kanysh Tuleushin, representatives of the Zerde National ICT Holding, Kazakhtelecom, the National Agency for Technological Development (NATD), the Development Bank of Kazakhstan, Kazyna Capital Management, the Development Fund for Information and Communication Technologies as well as many other well-known leaders and public figures of national companies and state agencies attended the road show.

Following the results of the trip, NATD signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with two American companies to develop some of Kazakhstan’s innovative projects. NATD will cooperate with the Innovaro Ink Company to jointly carry out research, advance innovative startups and transfer technologies. Another MoU was signed with Plug and Play Tech Centre, which will instigate joint ventures and tech startups in Silicon Valley and render support to launch the so-called ‘reactor of commercialisation’, Start Up Weekend. The parties will select the best innovative startups (mainly in the IT field), which will be incubated further at the Plug and Play Tech Centre in Silicon Valley.

Kaznex Invest also signed a memorandum with the Universal Wood Products Company to launch the production of medium density fiberboard (MDF) from grain straw with an average volume of investment of 150 million dollars. According to the agency, only one similar project, for the production of MDF from rice straw, exists in India.

During the visit, the delegation took part in the 10th Global Technology Symposium (GTS) at Rosewood Sand Hill. GTS is the leading investment conference on venture capital, technology and entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Each year this event brings together venture capitalists, technology gurus, private equity fund managers and entrepreneurs from more than 100 countries to discuss new frontiers of innovation.

Speaking at a special panel session of GTS dedicated to Kazakhstan, Deputy Prime Minister Issekeshev noted the high level of interest within Kazakhstan in the implementation of joint initiatives to build research centres, academic laboratories and large-scale innovative projects.

He discussed the implementation of joint venture industrial and innovation projects, as well as Kazakhstan’s investment climate, and detailed the government’s programmes for providing foreign companies investing in the country’s non-extracting industries with state support. He also touched upon Astana’s upcoming international exhibition, EXPO 2017: Energy of the Future.

Issekeshev also met with leaders of top universities in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Stanford School of Engineering, the Haas School of Business of the University of California at Berkeley and Northwestern Polytechnic University. He discussed mutual long-term cooperation in research and development, specialised trainings and workshops with deans, professors and faculty members

During the visit, the Kazakhstan delegation had a number of bilateral meetings with top Silicon Valley executives. They met with representatives of Google, DCM, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Bright Capital, Intel, Cisco Systems, VMWare, Tech Shop, Iogen, Tesla and other companies.

On the sidelines of the symposium, the issue of creating venture capital funds in Kazakhstan was discussed with DCM companies (which manage the assets of seven funds worth over two billion dollars) and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

During the road show, a number of meetings were held with companies in the ICT field. In particular, delegates discussed the possibility of setting up joint laboratories and research centres for the creation of elements of electronic devices and software with Intel Company, as well as cooperating with Cisco Systems Company in the Smart Astana project within the framework of EXPO 2017, creating research and development centres and participating in the Alatau Special Economic Zone ‘Park of Innovative Technologies’ (PIT).

At the meeting with Google Company, the issue of the company’s participation in the creation of a data centre in Kazakhstan was raised. Google was offered the possibility of hosting the largest Pavlodar data centre in Kazakhstan, which involves placing site files on the server, necessary for processing inquiries to the data.

“Kazakhstan’s ten best startups will be sent to Silicon Valley for further development and in search of financing,” Vice Minister Tuleushin said later at the Investorday-2013 conference.

The Investorday-2013 conference was held in Almaty on April 10-11. The conference brought together 110 investors and dozens of innovators and once again served as a major platform to discuss future innovative projects.

The officials hope that at least two or three projects out of the 10 will be successful abroad.

“Now, we have the opportunity to send the 10 best startups to Silicon Valley so that they can further promote their projects. Besides, experts from Plug and Play will come to Kazakhstan in order to carry out analysis within three months and then to invite inventors to their platform,” Vice Minister Tuleushin said.

According to Tuleushin, the scheme of issuing grants for innovative projects has changed in Kazakhstan. They have been made available all year round. In addition, a system of submission of applications in electronic form is currently being developed. Future businessmen will be able to track their applications online.

“We have selected a partner and are creating a centre to deal with the transfer of technologies in Silicon Valley. We will use this centre to continuously work with venture funds. As you know, around 400 global funds are based in Silicon Valley. We are also planning to establish a separate venture fund that will allow for attracting private investment to the best startups,” Tuleushin said.

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