Despite recent upheavals, the new Crimea government has wasted no time in setting up a new inward investment program to attract tech startups to the region.
In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, its newly appointed “startup evangelist” Vladimir Putinitov, said: “Crimea now intends to become the Delaware of Eurasia combined with Silicon Valley’s innovation. We hope to attract startups that would normally look to San Francisco, London or perhaps Kazakstan, to instead consider the amazing new opportunities Crimea offers as the world’s newest startup hub.”
Heading up the new internal investment fund dubbed “Sevastopol Tech City” or (STCiti for short), he has been charged with attracting tech startups both from within nearby Russia and continental Europe (however, no countries directly to the north are eligible to apply for their program, for some reason).
A new, government-backed STCiti Fund will draw on a 60 Billion Rouble pot, which will make investments from 100,000 Roubles up to small series A rounds of 2 billion. However, startups will have to have Swiss bank accounts to qualify for the investment.
Putinitov outlined how both the SEIS (Sevastopol Enterprise Investment Scheme) incentives and new immigration rules, mainly encouraging Russian immigration, will help supercharge the entrepreneurial economy.
“Our Angel networks have been recently boosted by a new influx of oligarchs eager to diversify beyond oil and gas, and many new institutional investors and VCs are currently raising funds to boost Crimea’s startup ecosystem. Only the other day, we had a number of government ministers backing the creation of these new funds. Quite quickly, actually,” he told me.
Putinitov outlined how office space in Sevastopol and other major cities in the Crimea is now charged at rock-bottom rates, beating even “cheap but sexy” Berlin on capital outlay costs. “We have a number of recently vacated military bases which would make incredibly funky spaces. And a lot of ping pong tables have been left behind by the previous tenants, alongside heavy armaments.”
“Many of the buildings have double-height ceilings, and the in the case of the former aircraft hangers, quadruple height,” he said. “In fact, we have made representations to Facebook to put in a new Hacker Way campus in one facility. We’re just waiting for them to call back.”
While it’s still early days, Crimea is hoping to become the kind of region mentioned in the same breath as Paolo Alto, Putinitov went on. “We really think we can be the next Silicon Valley,” he said, “or maybe called it Siliconov Vallenova”.
Although San Francisco has some of the latest mobile app startups, Crimea, boasted Putinitov, has some of the world’s most innovative new mobile artillery startups. “Just recently SniperChat raised funding for its ‘fire and forget’ platform,” he said.
[Yes, this is satire].