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Interviews

  • Gap Between St Petersburg and Moscow Narrowing – But Funding Still Miles Away

    When Pavel Durov was dismissed as CEO of Vkontakte, the social media platform he had founded in 2006, last summer, Saint Petersburg’s tech community lamented the loss of its most enigmatic character, at the helm of its most successful brand. But there’s far more to the city than Durov, who chose exile on the Caribbean island of St Kitts over Russia, which he complained was “incompatible with internet business”, or VK, whose 71 million daily users and 280 million registered accounts make it the most popular Russophone social media. Russia’s second city has all the foundations to become a key player in the tech world. Its problems, however, lie 400 miles southeast, in Moscow.

    Michael Pogrebnyak has spent over a decade developing software in Russia, the E.U. and U.S. Since 2011 he has led Kuznech, a visual search solution that for several years has been listed among Russia’s top startups – despite being headquartered in California’s Sunnyvale. Pogrebnyak doesn’t necessarily believe in the “dreamland” of San Francisco many of his compatriot entrepreneurs are sold. But finding investment in Saint Petersburg “sounds today like a fairytale for kids… in 99% of cases it’s impossible”.

    Russia has suffered an exodus of tech stars, not only like the debonair Durov but angels and other investors, as Russia has endured the double ignominy of a crashing currency and international sanctions. That aside, Saint Petersburg has suffered in the shadow of its larger capital city across the East European Plain – whose startup scene has flourished in recent years. “In terms of the startup ecosystem more than 90% of VC funds, angels and other incubators are located in Moscow”, says Pogrebnyak. “Also, the way of doing business in Moscow is more energetic than in Saint Petersburg”.

    redherring-interview

    Read more on redherring.com

  • 10 questions to a founder : Kuznech

    By Paul Melcher @Kaptur.co

    Image recognition, visual search and content classification have been around for a while with various degree of success. With mobile shopping exploding, as well as myriads of photo/video based platforms, it is now at the core of almost any online experience. While Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft throw millions in research for their own gain, independent companies offer powerful solutions to the rest of the market. 4 years old Russia-based Kuznech is one of them. We spoke with co-founder and CEO Michael Pogrebnyak to learn more:

    ­— Explain Kuznech. What does it solve?

    “Kuznech” is a shortened version of a Russian word “kuznechik”, which means grasshopper. The vision of grasshoppers is very different from that of human beings and many other creatures. Grasshoppers have 5 eyes in total: three small eyes on the top of the head and two large compound eyes. Each compound eye is made up of thousands of very tiny eyes called ommatidia. These miniature eyes take in small portions of light from the full image that a grasshopper is observing and build a big picture out of these “data”. We thought that a grasshopper could be a great symbol for a company working on image, video and object recognition.

    ­— What kind of companies use your technology?

    Mainly, these are companies that manage large databases of visual information (images and videos): dating sites, social networks, video and image hosting platforms. For all these types of companies, we provide content moderation services, like nudity detection (checking whether the UGC contains adult content or not), video and image search, avatar moderation. In this field, we work with Russian’s largest social networks Odnoklassniki and VKontakte (Mail.ru Group).

    Then, it’s e‐commerce market, where we present our mobile recognition solution: “See – Snap – Purchase”. For example, a US company PartsTown (they sell genuine OEM replacement parts for restaurants and commercial kitchens) and Russian HSC (Helicopter Service Company) use our recognition technology in their mobile applications.

    And the third use case is logo recognition in images and videos. Here we look towards sports sponsorship market and work with marketing managers of sports clubs.

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