8 start-ups sparking a digital revolution in St Petersburg

28 Sep 2017

Image: Sobolev_Igor/Shutterstock

Renowned for being the cultural capital of Russia, St Petersburg is home to a promising and vibrant young tech scene.

Established by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703, St Petersburg has borne a few different names. In its time, it has been known as Petrograd and Leningrad, and once again as St Petersburg.

This elegant city is also regarded as the Venice of Russia, with its various canals, monuments and a historic centre marking it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Noted for its beautiful buildings such as the Petrine Baroque, Menshikov Palace, Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, and the Twelve Collegia, it is a city that has been at the crossroads of historical significance for the past 300 years.

Its academic history can be traced back to the establishment of the Russian Academy of Sciences, its university and gymnasium.

At various times, it was the capital of Russia and remained the seat of the Romanov dynasty and the imperial court of various tsars until the communist revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, stormed the Winter Palace in October.

The city’s technology prowess can be seen in the establishment of VK – one of Russia’s largest social networks with more than 400m users – by Pavel Durov after he graduated from St Petersburg State University in 2007.

Here are the start-ups that make St Petersburg worth watching.

Cards Mobile

Cards Mobile enables you to collect all your discount, bank and transport cards on your smartphone. You can then use them for convenient and profitable shopping. Partners include Mastercard and various Russian banks.

Grow Food

Grow Food was founded in 2015 by Daniel Galper and the company provides a home delivery service of portioned meals for athletes on a subscription basis. The start-up claims to deliver 700,000 orders every month in St Petersburg and Moscow, and plans to expand to a further 100 Russian cities. Grow Food recently raised $5m in funding from Moscow-based fund AddVenture.


Stafory is the creator of Robot Vera, an AI robot recruiter that already claims to have recruited several thousand employees for giants such as PepsiCo, MTS and X5 Retail Group. Alexey Kostarev, Vladimir Sveshnikov and Aleksandr Uraksin had originally created an online recruitment company, but soon pivoted with the goal of automating mass recruiting and so, Robot Vera was born. Robot Vera (Russian for ‘faith’) apparently interviews 1,000 applicants across Russia by video every five minutes.


Teambrella is a fintech player focused on blockchain and enabling the future of the insurance industry through the use of peer-to-peer smart contracts based on cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum. Teambrella raised $839,000 in seed funding in June this year.


8 Russian tech start-ups sparking a revolution in Saint Petersburg

Image: WikiRoutes

WikiRoutes is a global transport database – the Wikipedia for public transport – that enables users to search more than public transit routes in cities worldwide. In July, the start-up reached the milestone of 40,000 routes in 1,617 cities.


Babadu is a major online retailer of children’s goods across Russia, which began in St Petersburg and is now operational nationwide. The start-up earlier this year raised $3.2m from the recently created venture arm of Bank St Peterburg to fund technological development, operations and marketing. In 2013, Babadu raised an undisclosed amount from Target Global, and received $2.9m in investment in 2014 from Russian investment fund IIDF (or FRII in Russian).


E-commerce marketing player REES46 analyses the behaviour of customers contacting its platform sites, and claims to have already studied the interests and needs of 1.9m people while preserving the anonymity of their data. Founded by big-data expert Michael Kechinov, REES46 raised more than $1m from investors last year.


Last.Backend is a cloud SaaS platform for the design, development and monitoring of server applications automates. It manages all operations for the deployment of developers with visualisation of APIs and console controls. Founded by Alexander Kaloshin, it raised $228,000 in a seed round last year.

Updated, 2.40pm, 1 March 2022: A previous version of this article included health app Welltory, which is based in the US.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years