Why is Eugene Kaspersky funding a travel accelerator during COVID-19?

Eugene Kaspersky made a name for himself in cybersecurity as CEO of Kaspersky Labs, but the Russian security expert has a new passion project: he’s funding an online accelerator that aims to support entrepreneurs who are building travel and tourism startups.

Businesses that apply must have a focus on Russia, though the accelerator is open to startups based anywhere. There are four categories of focus: travel tech, infrastructure, social impact and sustainability. Kaspersky isn’t taking equity in selected teams, which means founders who get into the program will benefit from free support.

Ten startups will be selected for a two-week online bootcamp, with a virtual demo day planned for June 25. The deadline for applications is May 29, 2020.

We spoke to Kaspersky about setting up the program and why he’s so keen to support a sector that’s being hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TechCrunch: What is Kaspersky Exploring Russia? Explain the key details of how the program will work and what sort of support will be offered to selected entrepreneurs/startups?

Eugene Kaspersky: The program is a tourism accelerator targeting young travel startups. We decided to help the tourism industry as an industry that has been hit so severely by the pandemic. I think now is the time to… turn life’s lemons into lemonade by using this self-isolation period for personal development and improvement of business projects. We’ll be accepting applications from different industry streams — tech startups, projects that make extreme and leisure tourism more accessible, business projects that are socially significant in the travel and tourism fields and projects that have a positive impact on sustainable development. We’ll choose the 10 most interesting and promising projects to enter the online educational program with lectures, one-to-one coaching sessions and presentations from industry experts. At the end of the program, we‘ll chose three finalists on the demo day, where all 10 participants will be able to pitch their startups to the jury.

You’ve made your name in cybersecurity. Some people may wonder why you’re investing your own resource in travel/tourism startups when many types of businesses are facing huge challenges as a result of the pandemic — so what’s your personal interest in the sector? And what made you choose an accelerator as your way to help?