MTS Launches $15.5mn Fund for Startups in Russia, Neighboring Countries

One of Russia’s biggest mobile operators, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), has launched a corporate venture fund targeting startups across Russia and neighboring countries, East-West Digital News reports.

According to the website, the fund expects to invest around 1 billion rubles (approximately $15.5 million at the current exchange rate) in early-stage startups over the next two years.

The startup may receive funding from the new corporate fund independently from another in-house accelerator that the corporation launched last year, the MTS StartUp Hub.

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.

The company said it aims to support its startups in Russia and beyond.

“We are developing a network across the world’s key centers 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, representatives of the two companies recently told business newspaper Vedomosti.