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    Russian Start-ups Face Visa Hurdles to Compete in US Business Contest

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    Russian technology start-ups that were selected as finalists in a prestigious US business development competition might not be able to take part in the months-long contest because of visa problems, the head of an investment company that is co-sponsoring the event said Thursday.

    WASHINGTON, June 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russian technology start-ups that were selected as finalists in a prestigious US business development competition might not be able to take part in the months-long contest because of visa problems, the head of an investment company that is co-sponsoring the event said Thursday.

    Four teams of two Russians from start-ups developing apps to try on clothing virtually, a system to visually organize documents, web and mobile analytics, and a game to teach computer programming are supposed to arrive in Boston Monday for the start of the MassChallenge Accelerator competition, said Axel Tillmann, CEO of RVC-USA investment firm, which has links to Russian venture capital funds and the Skolkovo Innovation Center.

    But three of the four appear to have run into visa issues which might jeopardize their chances of vying for a share of the $1 million in prizes up for grabs in the MassChallenge.

    “The MassChallenge Accelerator requires about 4-1/2 months’ presence in the US, and a normal visitor visa doesn’t cover that,” Tillmann told RIA Novosti by phone from Boston, where the MassChallenge competition is held.

    “The Russians would have to leave in the middle of the competition, so I asked for people applying for visas to take part in the MassChallenge to be granted a six-month visa,” Tillmann said.

    Tillmann said the solution to the visa issue would be to include Russia in the US visa waiver program, which would also help to "improve relations between the two countries.”

    The four Russian teams were selected as finalists in this year’s MassChallenge have a good chance of taking one of the 20 prizes of up to $100,000 that will be awarded to the winning businesses in late October, said Tillman.

    More than 1,200 start-ups from 39 countries applied to take part in this year’s MassChallenge, with Russia fielding the second highest number of applicants after the United States. Fifty-four Russian start-ups applied to get into the competition but only four made the grade.

    They were Dressformer, a technology platform that allows users to virtually try on clothing and get feedback; Qbaka, which has developed a tool to track and analyze client-side web service problems at all stages; Zet Universe, developer of a platform that allows businesses to visually organize data; and SputnikBot, maker of a game that teaches children computer programming.

    Russian entries for the MassChallenge were up by 50 percent compared to last year, highlighting “the growing traction of innovation in a country with a market economy just over 20 years old,” RVC-USA said in a statement.

     

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