Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Dawn of the Tech Oligarch

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Well, a Russian is coming at least. In fact he's already here. Russian President Dmitry Medveded touched down in San Francisco last night where he was greeted by California first lady Maria Shriver and former Secretary of State, George Shultz.

In an effort to drag Russia's outmoded oil-based economy into the 21st Century Medveded is scheduled to meet with the likes of Apple's Steve Jobs, Cisco's John Chambers and Twitter chiefs Evan Williams and Biz Stone. While former Russian President and current Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin still pulls the strings, Medveded is apparently tech-savvy and has plans for a kind of post-Soviet Sillicon Valley to be located just outside of Moscow. A place where companies and innovators would be lured with tax breaks and "special rules."

The Russian Silicon Valley, were it to emerge, would have interesting implications. In the Russian Silicon Valley, I imagine that things would be more straightforward. Our Silicon Valley likes to put forth the idea that in technology, anything is possible. In the Russian Silicon Valley, anything is possible. . . for a price my friend.

Perhaps a Russian Silicon Valley means that the oil oligarch would give way to the tech oligarch. What would Russian tech oligarchs be like? Russians, after all, tend to take to new money like starving men to the buffet at Sizzler.

I for one can imagine them sitting in opulent, marble columned office spaces flanked by Ukrainian supermodels. On their grandiose white marbles desks, would sit gilded gold plated, diamond encrusted desktop monitors complete with velvet covered keyboard and mouse. Outside in the waiting room, would sit another Ukrainian supermodel, dressed immaculately, looking bored as she filed her nails.

"You hef appointment?" she would say. "You sit, you wait."

Imagine the trade shows and conventions the Russian tech industry would put on. Envision rows of booths manned by bored Ukrainian models hawking the hi-tech wares of Georgian super-geeks now decked out in Armani suits pushing Dolce & Gabbana glasses back up their noses.


Of course right now it's only talk. With a 2.2 out of 10 score, Russia currently falls just behind Nigeria in it's business confidence score. In fact Russian born Google founder, Sergey Brin, has called Russia, "Nigeria with snow." Surely for any kind of tech industry, real or imagined, to flourish there Russia must first focus on dealing with corruption and better protecting intellectual property rights. Certainly they must do this if they really hope to join the World Trade Organization.

While it is intriguing, for now, Computers As Humans would just like wish Mr. Medveded luck on his visit to Sillicon Valley. Who knows? Maybe, if he's really lucky, during his visit with Steve Jobs, he'll be given an inside track on how to score one of the new iPhones.

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