From Russia with Love, Part Dvah (aka II)

Hello and Happy New Year everyone!  I am finally putting pen to paper (finger pads to computer keys? whatever) to write about the previously promised second half of my Russian visit.

As luck would have it, I happened to see my freshman year college roommate yesterday (Josie Everett), with whom I took one semester of Russian language classes when she and I were at Berkeley.  For me one semester was hard enough; I decided to stick with English, as it was a much faster track to getting your order delivered correctly at Starbucks. Josie ended up getting a Masters in Russian and now is Executive Director of an extremely cool foundation, the Heart to Heart International Children’s Medical Alliance, which helps bring modern pediatric cardiac surgery programs to Russia. It was fun to share stories (and vodka shots) and talk about the trip with Josie yesterday as she spends a great deal of time in and around the Russian healthcare system about which I am just learning.  Plus, now that there are Starbucks in Moscow so she can order a grande non-fat latte in multiple languages.

Anyway, Josie and I were riffing on the topic that I started to touch on in my last post, From Russia with Love, readable HERE.  The topic at hand is the subtle difference between innovation and entrepreneurship and how that may play out differently in different cultures and settings.

I spoke a lot in my last Russia post about how the Russian government and various public and private entities there are seeking to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.  I used those words interchangeably in that post, which I realize, in retrospect, was really not accurate (not too hard to realize since I got approximate 10,000 emails pointing out to me the difference…guess I didn’t master that English language training either).

Again, I’ll provide a little context for what follows, which I will steal from a nicely concise article I recently read in VentureBeat.  They report that Russia is now the largest Internet and mobile market in Europe.  Software, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology and Clean Teach are all fast growing fields, and the consumer market is speeding forward fast and furious (GDP per capita has grown about 13% annually from 1999 through 2010).  Russia is, of course, known for superior levels of scientific acumen, and it is also becoming a major technology center.  Labor costs are generally low in Russia and early stage funding is becoming more readily available.  As a result, there is a rapidly emerging startup/entrepreneur ecosystem.  VentureBeat adds that there is strong government commitment and support for innovation.

And yet, that difference between “entrepreneurship” and “innovation” keeps ringing in my head.  Not to get all semantic-y on you, but the Webster’s definitions tell the tale:

Entrepreneur:  a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

Innovator:  a person who introduces something new and/or makes changes in anything established.

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