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Russia aims to replicate MassChallenge start-up competition

MassChallenge, a Boston-based competition for early-stage entrepreneurs, will help Russia launch its own version of the program to foster start-ups. The organization will assist Russian entrepreneurs that are interested in taking part in this year’s MassChallenge contest, as well as lend its expertise to advise an existing business plan competition in Russia, according to John Harthorne, chief executive of MassChallenge.

The nonprofit MassChallenge, which awards $1 million annually to young companies, received $100,000 from Russian Venture Company USA, the American investment arm of the Russian government.

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“Our model can definitely help them,” said Harthorne. “They are eager to build out their start-up ecosystem.”

The Russian firm officially opened its American headquarters in Boston earlier this month, and controls a portion of a $1 billion investment fund based in Moscow. It intends on funding high-tech and life sciences businesses in the US. The MassChallenge sponsorship is its first public, direct investment in the Boston area.

“We want to tap into the expertise of MassChallenge,” said Axel Tillmann, chief executive of Russian Venture Capital Company USA.

MassChallenge, which will take applications for its 2012 contest from March through mid-April, first launched its contest in 2010 in a bid to young entrepreneurs.

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at
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