By @SimonCocking. Delighted to bring you this interview with Victoria Zavyalova Science & Tech editor of RBTH [Russia Behind The Headlines] who are the latest global media organisation Irish Tech News have partnered with to bring you great tech stories from all over the world. Victoria is a journalist and book author based in Moscow who writes about #space, #nuclear technology, #genetics, #startups and other topics.

Russian casinos are betting big on new face recognition technology

What is your background?

I’ve been writing about international business and innovation in Russia since the end of 1990s. At that time, nobody had heard of startups and the majority of scientists and developers either had to sell their inventions to the big companies or move abroad.

After completing my MA in media management in the U.K. I worked a few years at a think tank based in London where I was responsible for market research and conference organizing. These were international events for heavy industries such as metals, mining, energy, and etc. The big companies that I dealt with were major corporate behemoths, and they were very slow when it came to innovation.

Was it a logical progression to what you do now?

A few years ago when I returned to Russia I discovered that a whole new generation of tech startups had emerged in the country. It was like a parallel universe. While the majority of Russian companies were highly bureaucratic and most markets monopolized, this new generation of innovators were mobile, energetic and able to get things done.

I decided I’d rather work in this vibrant and exciting environment than deal with big business, and so a couple of years ago I joined Russia Beyond The Headlines (RBTH) as the Science and Tech editor.

Tell us about RBTH – what’s the goal, what topics do you cover?

RBTH’s main goal is to cover those aspects of Russia that have been ignored by international mainstream media, as well as to offer alternative perspectives and opinions. For instance, the achievements and discoveries of Russian scientists and tech entrepreneurs are not well-known around the globe. When people think of Tech, they think of Japan, Korea, the U.S. or Israel. Few people know, for example, that some of the most cutting-edge face recognition technology is made by a Russian company that beat Google in an international contest.

Russian scientists are also developing advanced health and medical solutions. For example, I am testing one development myself – a new anti-aging pill based on the concept of genetically programmed aging. I won’t just yet recommend it to anyone, but I’ll certainly share my experience when the clinical tests are finished.

What are the most common tips you give to startups as a mentor?

Since 2012, RBTH has been producing a rating of the top 50 Russian tech startups that are either active on the global arena or just entering the international market.

Russians are usually not good at promoting themselves, and this is especially true for tech people. Sometimes they think their idea or technology is so good that it will sell itself, but this never happens. You need to think of promotion, marketing, and sales as much as you think about your technology.

Some startup founders do PR and marketing themselves because they think it’s simple, but of course it’s not. My main advice is that you can’t be a specialist in everything, and it’s better to hire a professional rather than do marketing and low quality PR that will only damage your brand in the long term.

What tech trends are you excited about in Russia?

Russia pretty much follows global trends — artificial intelligence, IoT, and biotech are evolving here just like everywhere else, and I hope to see many new Russian startups and some great technology in the coming years.

What is different about the Russian market is that, despite its size, there is very little demand for tech. The reason is not only the economic crisis of the past few years, but also digital inequality. That is why many Russian startups are looking for the application of their technology abroad, not to mention seeking foreign investors.

You can find developers in Siberia, register your company in Hong Kong, hire marketing people in Finland and sell your product in the U.S. and China. Most startups are becoming global, and their geography and size are irrelevant. It’s really exciting to live in a world where political and ideological borders are no longer so important although it seems that in the last years they’ve been only getting more complex.


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