Medvedev seeks help for Russia's 'Siliconovaya Dolina'
Russian president acknowledges challenges, outlines his vision in speech at Stanford
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday sent his first tweet, met Steve Jobs, visited California Avenue in Palo Alto, secured a $1 billion investment from Cisco Systems, showed off his iPad and invited a Stanford University crowd to help him transform Russia into a technological leader.
Medvedev is seeking to create Russia's own Silicon Valley — "Siliconovaya Dolina" — in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo. But first, he told a capacity crowd at Stanford's 750-seat Dinkelspiel Auditorium, he wanted to see the original Silicon Valley for himself.
"I wanted to see with my own eyes how success is created, how business is created," Medvedev said Wednesday afternoon.
Medvedev was introduced by Stanford Provost John Etchemendy as "one of the first Russian users of Apple's iPhone." Medvedev waved an iPad in acknowledgement before he approached the podium and spoke to the crowd about his plans to reform his country.
His speech focused on Russia's efforts to become a technological leader, an effort that was bolstered by Cisco System's announcement earlier in the day that it will invest $1 billion in the Skolkovo project.
But Medvedev also acknowledged that his country faces steep hurdles.
He talked about the need to improve Russia's judicial, health care and education systems and acknowledged that the nation's fledgling democracy is still fragile and that venture capitalism in Russia hasn't worked all that well thus far.
"In Russia we have big money, but we don't have a Silicon Valley," Medvedev told the audience, which included former U.S. secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz.
"The money has to be spent correctly, given to the right people and governed by proper rules."
Earlier in the day, Medvedev toured Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco. The Associated Press reported that he set up a Twitter account under the name "KremlinRussia" and sent his first tweet: "Hello everyone. I am now on Twitter and this is my first message."
At about 12:30 p.m. he visited Yandex Labs, a Russian search company located at 299 S. California Ave. in Palo Alto, thrilling the business district's shoppers and diners, most of whom hadn't anticipated the secret stop.
When Medvedev finally emerged from Yandex, he greeted a crowd of about 100 spectators before heading to Printers' Inc. Cafe.
One Florida couple who happened upon Medvedev's visit were thrilled at their good luck.
Earlier in their trip they spotted former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dining at Sundance Steakhouse in Palo Alto.
"We're just amazed by it," Mary Beth Schall said. "We're very impressed this is such an interesting place."
Medvedev's tour of Silicon Valley came about a month after a delegation of 20 Silicon Valley executives traveled to Russia. The group met Medvedev in Gorki, Russia — a meeting that paved the way for the president's current visit.
"It's really remarkable what's happened in that country," delegate and venture capitalist Brian Jacobs said. "They had one of the largest centralized economies in the world and then it fell apart and had to be reshaped into a capitalist system."
After meeting with Medvedev, Jacobs was able to see what changes Russia needs to make to its economy.
"I think the president understands that Russia needs to diversify their economy," he said. "They have a lot of natural resources. He recognized that those are commodities. In order to have a stable economy, they need to foster other forms of businesses. They're very much looking at the United States as a model for how they want their economy to be."
Medvedev met with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., Thursday to discuss trade, investment and innovation. Then he planned to go to Canada to take part in the G-8 and G-20 meetings.
Medvedev, 44, is a lawyer and former law professor. He taught at St. Petersburg University during the 1990s, a Stanford press release stated. He served as an aide to his predecessor and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Medvedev was elected president in 2008, in his first run for public office.