Cisco commits to Skolkovo as President looks over hi tech role models

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev is looking over California’s silicon valley on his trip to the US, as American technology giants take increasing interest on his plans for the modernization of Russia.

Tweets from Twitter headquarters, and a glimpse of the latest iPhone. President Medvedev’s US visit is delivering more substantial outcomes for Russian modernization with IT giant Cisco, committing $1 billion to his innovation hub at Skolkovo near Moscow. Cisco CEO, John Chambers said it was an honour to take part in the project, with Cisco bringing specialists to Russia and generating a local knowledge base as well.

“We are proud of the opportunity to participate in the work in Russia, we would like to work actively in all spheres. Cisco will have a physical presence in Skolkovo. We are going to bring our own specialists, engineers and find new employees both in Russia and in the USA. Both groups will work together,” and adding “We will encourage the implementation of new businesses through a business incubator. We are proud of this opportunity.”

More than 20 thousand Russian speaking professionals work in California’s Silicon Valley. President Medvedev met some of them to borrow ideas and expertise and again emphasized the governments commitment to making the project work.

“It was really hard, but we agreed on a special tax regime for our innovation center in Skolkovo. There is always a risk that such a place could become an offshore zone for money laundering. However, we will be introducing a number of tax cuts for innovative companies.”

The delegation with Medvedev visiting Silicon Valley says they noticed that the second language there is Russian. The government says, it wants to reverse the brain drain and attract people back to Russia to cultivate start-ups.

Empty fields are expected to turn into company headquarters and houses high-tech industry leaders in 7 years – with a scientific community expected to begin forming in about a decade, provided the legal and education systems can rise up to the challenge.

American venture capitalists say, they are considering investing into Skolkovo. At the same time, Drew Guff, the founder of the Siguler Guff Fund, says there's a strong lobby in the United States to introduce a special start-up visa to the country, with an option to apply for permanent residency.

“The US government is looking into loosening up the restrictions, so that more talented programmers and educated technology specialists from Russia can come from the US and work there.”

Analyst say, if the American new EB-6 visa for entrepreneurs is introduced – it could be another challenge to President Medvedev’s ambitious plans to stem the brain-drain and foster high-tech start-ups in Russia.