Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), one of Russia’s main mobile operators, has launched a corporate venture fund targeting startups across Russia and neighboring countries. The fund expects to invest around 1bn rubles (approximately $15mn at the current exchange rate) in early-stage startups over the next two years, reports East-West Digital News (EWDN).
Last year the corporation launched an in-house accelerator, MTS StartUp Hub, but startups may receive funding from the new corporate fund independently from their participation, or not, in this accelerator.
Through its accelerator, equity investments and acquisitions, MTS aims to develop an ecosystem of services and products that go beyond the traditional telecom sector. Last year, for example, the operator acquired two online event ticketing companies as well as an international eSports club. It also has stakes in Ozon, one of the largest Russian e-commerce companies.
As a result, MTS offers a variety of mobile applications (MTS Taxi, MTS Music, MTS Books, etc.), B2B cloud solutions, data analysis based on Big Data, cybersecurity systems and telemedicine services.
MTS aims to support its startups in Russia and beyond: “We are developing a network across the world’s key centres of innovation, opening representation office there,” MTS Innovation Center’s director Vladimir Khrenkov was quoted as saying.
Two other major Russian mobile operators, Beeline and MegaFon, tend to abstain from venture investments, which they find too risky. Rather, they tend to develop partnerships and in-house innovation, Vedomosti learned from these companies.
Last year, no fewer than 27 corporations completed 77 investment deals involving startups in Russia — three times as much as in 2017, according to RVC data cited by Vedomosti.