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Russian and American Angels Touch Wings
12 December 2007
Russian and American Angels Touch Wings

This article is cross-published in conjunction with Angel Investor, a monthly magazine published by Corporate Publishing. You may view this article as it appeared in Angel Investor, in PDF format, by clicking here. The article is also available in Russian from Angel Investor. View the Russian version, in PDF format, by clicking here.    

Russian and American Angels Touch Wings
at Boston Region Open Doors Symposium
Submitted by:
Irene Porokhova, McDermott Will & Emery;
Catherine Mannick, V.P., USRCCNE;
and Daniel Satinsky, President, USRCCNE.

On Monday, November 12th a select group of Russians and Americans active in angel and venture investment gathered near Boston, Massachusetts, USA, to share experience and to start building bridges between investors in the two countries. The gathering was hosted by the U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce of New England (USRCCNE) as the "First Annual US-Russia Business Angel Symposium." After an intense day of panel discussions, workshops and interactive sessions, the participants on all sides felt that the program had been practical and productive as a starting point for building mutual confidence and as a basis for ongoing future programs.

The Russian delegation of approximately 40 participants came from Moscow and from the regional industrial and academic centers or St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Tomsk. The delegation included Russia-based investors, entrepreneurs, government officials, and managers from local and multi-national firms. The American delegation was primarily from the New England states and included investors, entrepreneurs, attorneys, accountants and consultants.

Boston and the state of Massachusetts are centers for entrepreneurship and innovation thanks to the areas leading research universities, a deep pool of experienced entrepreneurs, and a well-developed network of investors. Building on this experience, the focus of the Symposium was to provide an annual forum for improving ties between the New England entrepreneurial community and Russias growing number of business angel investors, particularly in the technology and innovation sectors.

The Symposium was held at the ultra-modern Babson College executive conference facilities. Babson College is one of the leading institutions of higher learning in the United States in providing entrepreneurial education and was an enthusiastic supporter and organizer of the Symposium, led by Professor William Coyle as a member of the Symposium organizing committee.

The Co-Chairs of the Symposium were Ed Marram, Director of the Babson Center for Entrepreneurship, and Albina Nikkonen, Executive Director of the Russian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (RAVI). The sponsors were the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery and the accounting firm of PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC). Critical support was provided by the U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation and the Russian National Union of Business Angels

The day began with introductory sessions on angel investing in the United States presented by Ed Marram, James Geshwiler, Managing Director of CommonAngels and John Cohan, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery. Their presentations were followed by an overview of angel investing in Russia, led by Albina Nikkonen and Alexander Kashirin, President of Russian National Union of Business Angels. The audience then engaged in a discussion on the best ways to apply the US angel investing model to the Russian market.

Following the first panel, a group of venture capital, legal and academic experts led sessions such as "Deal Structure and Due Diligence" and "Post-Investment Relationship." The panelists included Axel Bichara, Partner at Atlas Venture, Mark Stein, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, Greg Gailius, Partner at PWC, Chris Donovan, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, and Angelo Santinelli, Professor at Babson College. These two sessions focused on both best practices and the need to adopt such practices to Russias legal and regulatory environment.

The luncheon speaker was Luda Kopeikina, CEO of Noventra Corporation. The theme of her talk was that fostering entrepreneurship requires both a leap of faith and a highly structured collaboration among multiple organizations (universities, corporations, venture capital firms, government). This provoked many questions that she answered moving back and forth between English and Russian and drawing on her own broad corporate experience to explain the practical details of fostering entrepreneuership.

The opening afternoon panel on fostering innovation in Russia was led by Ivan Rodionov, Chairman of Venture Capital Innovation Fund in Moscow, and included Cathy Campbell, the CEO of the Civilian Research & Development Foundation in Washington, DC, and Kendrick White, Managing Principal of MARCHMONT Capital Partners in Nizhny Novgorod. 

The Symposium then moved to two case study presentations that gave the participants an opportunity to apply the tools presented from the earlier panel discussions. Management teams from two start-up companies, 4MobiTV (Russia) and Peopleahead (United States) presented their business cases to the entire audience. The Symposium participants then broke into small groups for an in-depth discussion. Mixed teams of participants from both US and Russia combined multiple perspectives on both businesses and provided feedback to both companies. All the participants found this hands-on workshop the highlight of the Symposium.

The groups presented their findings to the two start-ups, who then received additional comments and suggestions from the panel of experts: James Geshwiler, Candida Bush, Division Chair of Entrepreneurship Studies at Babson College, Richard Golob, the President of GGA Software Services, Oleg Kachanov, General Director of NICOR Fund, Igor Panteleev, General Director of the Russian National Union of Business Angels, and Dennis White, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery.

The Symposium concluded with signing of the "Memorandum towards Further US-Russian Business Cooperation," by Albina Nikkonen, Executive Director of RAVI, and Daniel Satinsky, President of the USRCCNE.

A networking cocktail reception offered participants additional time to share ideas and business contacts. Exchanging business cards and ideas, both Russian and American participants looked forward to maintaining working contact and meeting again in November of 2008.

Catherine Mannick, Vice President of the USRCCNE and the principal U.S. organizer of the Symposium stated that "The Symposium was a unique event, bringing together business angels and entrepreneurs from Russia and the New England states of the US, and marks the first step in a longer term collaboration between the USRCCNE and RAVI to develop innovation projects and foster investment cooperation among technology entrepreneurs and investors in Russia and New England." Albina Nikkonen, as the principal organizer on the Russian side, commented that "It is our plan to build and expand our partnership with USRCCNE and other partners in the U.S. to develop a series of programs that build on the success of BROD and expand cooperation between the investors and technology entrepreneurs in our two countries."

Find out more about the conference from the USRCCNE Newsletter

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Members of the USRCCNE become a part of a vibrant network of individuals and firms dedicated to furthering business opportunities between the U.S. and Russia. We work with business organizations in the US and in Russia to bring exposure to the USRCCNE, and ultimately, to our members.

This article is cross-published in conjunction with Angel Investor, a monthly magazine published by Corporate Publishing. You may view this article as it appeared in Angel Investor, in PDF format, by clicking here. The article is also available in Russian from Angel Investor. View the Russian version, in PDF format, by clicking here.  

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