Navigator Campus Hopes To Put Russian Hardware Startups On The Map

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With hardware suddenly all the rage, accelerators devoted entirely to the genre are popping up all over the place. And that includes the far-flung regions of Russia.

The Navigator Campus will be the first private hardware technology park in Russia’s Kazan region. If you’re unsure where that is, well, it’s at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia. Ok, nevermind. Suffice to say that the Navigator project will focus on consumer robotics, 3D-printing, smart electronics for “smart home” systems and wearables. And we are talking hard-core Russian tech expertise here.

Navigator is launching with $4 million in backing by founders Ramil Ibragimov (Runa Capital) and Vasil Zakyev (shtrafy-gibdd.ru, Ohmymentor.ru). It may not sound like much, but you can do quite a lot with $4 million in Russia. And they are not stopping there. The GRAVIZapp angel fund, specializing in hardware startups, will co-locate there. And they plan to build a network of hardware hackspaces and accelerators in the region, hoping to raise that funding to top $30 million spread across the region. Thus, neighboring cities like Ufa and Perm will get their own Navigator spaces.

Serguei Beloussov, Runa Capital senior partner and Acronis CEO, believes that access to scientific and business experts, VC mentors and hardware industry players like Dell, Samsung, IBM, Cisco, Intel and Foxconn will mean “we will soon see more venture-backed hardware deals in Russia.”

Some 93 out of 120 spots have already been taken by startups, covering various fields including 3D printing, robots, healthcare hardware, and consumer electronics.

A few hardware projects located there have already raised early money:

• iBlazr – a crowdfunding startup from Kiev (with $150K+ raised on Kickstarter previously) is building a ‘smart’ LED-flashlight for smartphones and tablets.
• Krisaf – robotized gym equipment for accelerated rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy.
• ENNOVA – a startup manufacturing NOVA 3D printers.

“Our ambitious aim for the next 5-10 years is to launch this kind of projects in each and every Russian city with up to 1 million citizens in order to create a powerful hardware-community based on the Russian engineering history,” says Ibragimov, of Navigator.

It sounds like they might just do it. The Russians are coming…