Alexei Beltyukov comments on the nature of independent business ownership in today’s Russia.
Alexei Beltyukov: Technology Entrepreneurship in Today’s Russia
According to Alexei Beltyukov, Russia has had a long and complicated history with the concept of business ownership. Entrepreneurship might be favored today—in fact, it is thriving—but such was not the case under Soviet rule. Back in the days of the Soviet Union—when Alexei Beltyukov was born—entrepreneurship was actually considered to be criminal activity. Things have changed, and Beltyukov has witnessed those changes firsthand.
Not only has he seen the changes, but he has also lived through them. When he came of age, back in the Soviet days, he elected to study medicine. Then the Soviet Union came crashing down, and overnight, things were different. Suddenly, Russian men of Beltyukov’s age were overcome with what he terms the “Russian dream.” They wanted to make their own way in the world, and suddenly, their country was not just allowing but actually encouraging them to become entrepreneurs.
Alexei Beltyukov heeded this call. He sold products on the streets, he started a translation business, and he eventually launched a number of successful, international companies. Today, he enjoys a position as one of the business owners in a nation that now cherishes the entrepreneurial spirit.
While the new, small business-friendly Russia is in many ways prospering, there is still much work to be done—and many challenges that young entrepreneurs face. Beltyukov now dedicates much of his time to helping them, through an organization called the Skolkovo Foundation.
Alexei Beltyukov: Skolkovo Foundation Helps Entrepreneurs
The Skolkovo Foundation was formed by the Russian government—along with various private businesses and business incubators—with a twofold goal. First, the organization seeks to bring economic stimulus to the country as a whole. More specifically, it seeks to encourage technology entrepreneurship throughout the country. On both fronts, the organization has proven successful.
The Skolkovo Foundation provides a number of services, including:
It offers government grants to innovative companies in the tech sector.
It is legally empowered to provide tax breaks for companies that need and deserve them.
It offers consultation services.
The organization attracts and develops technology development centers and corporate research facilities.
About the Skolkovo Foundation’s Grants
Beside being one of the leaders of the Foundations, Alexei Beltyukov helps other small business owners by imparting his hard-earned wisdom and experience to them. With that said, the heart of what the organization does is in its awarding of grant money.
According to Beltyukov, the Skolkovo Foundation has received applications from more than 5,000 Russian businesses to date. Of those companies, about 1,000 have been recognized as being worthy of support. A few hundred have actually received grant money or financial help, and others will soon follow suit.
Preventing Corruption at the Skolkovo Foundation
In awarding all of these financial benefits, the organization endeavors to keep itself free and clear of any whiff of corruption. This is, in some ways, a challenge. Because entrepreneurship is still so new and so unfamiliar to many Russians, there are many who are all too willing to resort to bribery or other acts of corporate corruption. It is one of the biggest problems with the small business sector in Russia, and one that the Skolkovo Foundation seeks to mitigate.
Alexei Beltyukov states that the application process has several anti-corruption measures built into it:
The application process begins when a small business owner fills out an online application. Every stage of the application process is carried out over the Internet. There is never any human contact, which is advantageous: It reduces instances in which bribery could occur.
Next comes a formal review of the applications. This is all done by outside experts—that is, business and science professionals who are not employed by or formally affiliated with the Skolkovo Foundation. In other words, there can be no favoritism here, no conflict of interest. In fact, more than a third of these outside reviewers do not even live in Russia.
Finally, grant monies are awarded by a separate committee. This committee is made up of distinguished professors, ex-statesmen and businessmen. Again, they have no affiliation with Skolkovo or with the applicants; again, affirms Alexei Beltyukov, no room for bribery or corruption.
Russia is Moving Forward
Not every company that applies to Skolkovo Foundation receives grant money; this is simply not viable. However, a large percentage does. It is enough to say that this organization is truly working hard to boost technology entrepreneurship in Russia. In doing so, it is also cultivating a stronger, more robust economy. Alexei Beltyukov is proud of this work, and happy for the role he is able to play in it.