ITMO University’s Business-incubator is IIDF’s “Incubator of the Year”
For the second year in a row the Internet Initiative Development Fund (IIDF) is hosting an award for incorporating methods and tools from their “Internet entrepreneurship” course. The nominations are “mentor of the year”, “partner of the year”, “best expert”, “course developer” and “most successful IT projects implemented in an incubator”. This year’s best incubator title went to ITMO University’s Business-incubator. ITMO.NEWS spoke to both sides to find out what made IIDF pick ITMO University out of dozens of Russian academies.
Today the “Internet entrepreneurship” course is being implemented in 131 universities across Russia – from Kaliningrad to Russky Island. According to Margarita Zobnina, the program's author, ITMO University’s projects are distinguished by their technical level. The University’s Incubator presented well-packaged projects with high commercial potential, the technical and business-related components of which stood out among the competitors.
According to Elena Gavrilova, director of ITMO University’s Business-incubator (BI), the division received IIDF’s “Incubator of the Year” award in many respects thanks to the Department of Technological Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, which has been a part of BI since 2015.
“Our master’s graduates not only receive a state diploma, but also defend a real business project that they have developed and “packaged” over the course of the program. Last semester we invited IIDF’s representatives to the exam at the “Entrepreneurship” course, which employs their methodology. Nine projects were presented at the exam: a food and catering service for Saint-Petersburg’s businesses OnLunch.ru, a Russian craft whiskey manufacture SaintBootlegger, an online platform for creative thinking development TrizOrg, functional foodstuffs for cancer prevention, a new advertising format DigitalAdvertising, an online platform for early-stage investment FundVid, high-protein organic ice cream Pro&Ice, an online store of used mountaineering equipment SmartSki and a startup studio project” - shares Elena Gavrilova.
Furthermore, this year IIDF’s methodology, as well as their online platform where master’s students independently studied theoretical materials and prepared practical tasks to be checked by BI’s experts during classes (the “inverted class” technique) was used systematically for the first time. According to Elena Gavrilova, the technique was successful: the project got more thoroughly developed, and the exam grades became high, including those from IIDF’s representative Margarita Zobnina.
BI has been employing Lean Startup and Customer Development techniques since its founding in 2012, so IIDF’s system isn’t fundamentally new: the same models have long been used for the development of resident projects in BI’s acceleration programs. However, IIDF’s online platform as well as ready materials (video lectures, homework and etc.) allowed to explain the methods of developing startup projects to master’s students and make their education as efficient as possible by employing a “flipped classroom” and spending all class time on practical tasks and receiving new ideas and feedback from both the teacher and the other students, leaving theory for independent studies.
Two years ago dozens of Russian Universities included IIDF’s Internet entrepreneurship course in their elective courses curriculum. This year the course expanded beyond Russia: several universities in Kazakhstan and an academy in Belarus are planning to add this program as well. The course’s authors are promising to adapt the program for teaching school students the basics of Internet entrepreneurship.