Kaspersky Exploring Russia

How to combine megacities and villages, wild nature and the comforts of civilization, the beauty of your motherland, physical challenges, and the desire to travel at any time

Apart from protecting the world against cyberthreats, the company's founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky has another passion: traveling. His habitual routine includes around 100 flights a year. Naturally, Russia, which offers more attractions and wonders than half of the wider world, is on his list too. Eugene enjoys visiting Kamchatka (even though he once broke his leg during a trek around the peninsula), the Altai, the Kuril Islands, Karelia, and other picturesque locations.

Kaspersky's tourism drive unites several sentiments: a love of travel, an affinity for one's origins, and inspiration drawn from bold business ideas in tourism. And, of course, admiration for the unstoppable spirit of entrepreneurship that even a pandemic cannot curb.

Cyclist in the field

Developing and organizing an accelerator in just 2 months

Eugene came up with the idea of launching the Kaspersky Exploring Russia business accelerator last March, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with entrepreneurs who contribute to the development of Russian tourism in dire need of support. It was unconventional projects like this that made Eugene fall in love with traveling around Russia to begin with. He now hopes that the accelerator will not only support businesses during and after the pandemic, but will also help Russian and foreign tourists discover a new side of the country.

Eugene Kaspersky Eugene Kaspersky

“We couldn't have imagined getting such amazing feedback. The huge number of applications the jury considered shows that our efforts were not in vain and the accelerator was indeed valuable and exciting,” says Eugene Kaspersky. “The accelerator brought together fascinating projects from all over the world in the tourism sphere. We selected three winners, but I hope that participation proved to be a meaningful experience for all of the teams. We are glad to have united so many talented and dedicated professionals. My hope is that very soon we'll be able to travel like before, and the accelerator participants will continue their development, discovering new solutions and, of course, new audiences.”

As early as May 6, after two months of preliminary work, the accelerator opened a call for applications until the end of the month. The participation requirements were realistic. Applicants did not need an operating business to enter the program; a handful of ideas on paper were enough. No geographic restrictions were imposed either. What did we expect from our applicants? A project had to feature conceptually new ideas, an enthusiastic team with fluent English, and, of course, a vision of the product. Importantly, the idea had to resonate with the audience and be of high value in the eyes of the audience and the experts.

People jump from the cliff into the lake

Selecting the very best ideas – from hundreds

Over the subsequent three weeks, we received over 500 applications from 47 countries. As expected, 74% of applications were submitted by Russia-based teams, with the majority of Russian projects coming from Moscow, the wider Moscow Region, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Kazan. All in all, 77 Russian cities were represented in the accelerator.

After Russia, the next top five countries were the UK, the U.S., Malaysia, Poland, and Italy. The judges meticulously examined applications from even the remotest corners of the world. One could say that Kaspersky Exploring Russia united all of the world's regions, except Antarctica, under its flag.

Ideas submitted varied from sustainable waste treatment in the mountains to big data analysis platforms for hospitality businesses. Around half of the projects dealt with travel tech ideas such as mobile apps, aggregator websites, and AR services. The second most popular area was social tech, or projects with a social impact. The next area, Infrastructure Track, brought together development projects spanning the extreme and adventure tourism sector. The lowest number of applications was submitted in the sustainability category, which is a promising but still emerging sector.

The panel of judges tasked with selecting the projects for participation included Eugene Kaspersky. The semi-finalists (over 100 teams) were invited for 15-minute video interviews. They presented their projects in the Elevator Pitch format, which meant having around 30 seconds to win the jury's attention.

The list of finalists included 10 of the brightest and most promising startups from Russia, the U.S., Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, Estonia, and South Africa.

Winners and finalists

<b>360 Stories</b><br>U.S. (Travel Tech) 1stplace

360 Stories
U.S. (Travel Tech)

Interactive live tours with real-time human guides in VR and AR

<b>MAPS.ME</b><br>Russia (Travel Tech) 2ndplace

Russia (Travel Tech)

First-in-class navigation app for travelers with over 140 million installations worldwide

<b>Altourism</b><br>Russia (Sustainability) 3rdplace

Russia (Sustainability)

Tours contributing to the development of villages and small towns

Special Awards



Sharing the secrets of success

The most valuable prize for the finalists was the opportunity to learn from top-of-the-class mentors who are representatives of transnational corporations: Vikas Bhola (regional director at Booking.com), Gemma Rubio (founder of Define the Fine), Vadim Mamontov (CEO at Discovery Russia), and others. They gave a number of workshops and lectures, sharing their experience of setting up a business with real-life cases of victory and defeat.

“We'd come a long way before joining the program and had gained a lot of experience, which meant having experienced many of the insights on practice with our team,” says Eugene Lisovskiy, CEO of MAPS.ME. “I can say with certainty, however, that all of the coaches and mentors were advanced practitioners who shared fascinating material. The most valuable results of our participation in the accelerator are networking and a fresh perspective.”

The finals of Kaspersky Exploring Russia concluded with a demo day on June 25. The online event featured the 10 best teams pitching their projects to a jury headed by Eugene Kaspersky. Three winners were selected.

What else did the winners receive?


a 3,000-euro scholarship for a relevant online course at one of the world's leading colleges, and an individual consultation with Eugene Kaspersky


marketing and PR support of the project in the media with a value of 2,000 euros


a subscription to software for business-related tasks with a value of 1,000 euros

And special prizes from our partners

Depending on the startup's profile, Amadeus will offer Accesstravels, Routitude, and MAPS.ME an opportunity to pitch their projects to specialists from Amadeus for Startups or Amadeus Corporate Social Responsibility, and to receive their guidance. Our partner will also feature the startups in the Amadeus Access Catalog and help pilot the projects in the Russian market.

Starta Ventures experts selected 360 Stories, MAPS.ME, and Altourism. Starta Ventures' partners will interview representatives of these startups to consider their participation in the Starta Batch 10 accelerator, which is taking place in New York from September 1 to December 5. These startups will also be considered for participation in the Starta Ventures Pre-Accelerator and the main program of Global Residency.

360 Stories and Altourism also received a special award from Propeller Shannon. The world's largest investment fund invited them to make a presentation at Boarding Pass Day, a unique event where project teams can pitch their ideas to 80–100 leading aviation players. Successfully pitched projects can be selected for participation in a partner accelerator.

3+1 Ways
to See the World

Accelerator winners
In office
1st place

360 Stories

First place was taken by an American startup called 360 Stories. It is a mobile app that you can use for walks and sightseeing in various cities around the world. A human local guide can keep you company, and it is a real-life experience taken online with a choice of tours to accommodate every taste. You can choose between a Buddhist walk, a visit to the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower, an overview of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and many more – without the hassle of visas, flights, tickets or lines. It is a much more user-friendly and informative way of exploring cities than browsing photographs or travelers' reviews. In other words, and rather poignantly, it is a viable and exciting way of traveling while international borders are closed due to the pandemic.

Albert Pogosyan Albert Pogosyan

“When we joined the accelerator, we had a product, were growing fast, and had partnered with leading travel platforms,” says the company's CEO Albert Pogosyan. “The pandemic caused us to lose revenue from offline tourism, so we made a complete transition to its virtual counterpart. The program enabled us to find new partners in Russia as well. Our U.S. location turned out to be a challenge, as the training sessions usually started at 4 a.m. local time. So my Armenia-based partner took part in the morning sessions, and I joined three hours later. Even the demo day was a little funny for me. My pitch was scheduled for 4 a.m., but I didn't finish it until 5:20. I felt exhausted and went to bed. It wasn't until I woke up that I found out we'd won.”

2nd place


Application MAPS.ME

The runner-up was MAPS.ME, a startup with a big Russian audience. Its primary product is a set of offline maps for travelers, with hundreds of guides and car routes for 600 cities. The application has a total of 140 million users worldwide. You can use it to book accommodation, look for coffee shops, banks, clinics, museums, and other institutions, and to share your traveling experience. All of MAPS.ME is owned by Mail.Ru Group. The startup is working on a global multilingual marketplace of digital guides linked to maps to achieve commercial success.

“Our participation in the accelerator may come off as strange because such programs are designed for inexperienced entrepreneurs with nascent projects,” says CEO Eugene Lisovskiy. “What we're doing, however, could be described as a startup within an existing product. We call it 'the Amazon for guidebooks'.”

Eugene Lisovskiy Eugene Lisovskiy
3rd place



The second runner-up was Altourism, a Russian startup with a strong social focus. Its chief purpose is to change locals' attitudes to the places they live in, and to prevent villages and small towns from dying out.
The changes start with grass-roots activism. Together with local enthusiasts, the Altourism team finds out what positive changes can be made for a village. They then organize a volunteering event that is both uplifting and brings value: not just an outdoor barbecue party but a meaningful activity. In the town of Tutayev near Yaroslavl, for example, they built a bridge across a creek and helped set up a public park. On the Chukotka Peninsula, tourists will join locals to help with the sandpapering, grinding and painting of whaleboats for an outdoor deep-sea fishing museum. Most of the proceeds from the sales of such tours are distributed to local businesses that provide food, tours, and accommodation. Locals work in cooperation with the “Altourists”.

Ekaterina Zatuliveter Ekaterina Zatuliveter

“Most importantly, such experiences change locals' mindsets,” explains Ekaterina Zatuliveter, founder of Altourism. “Instead of waiting for someone's help, they take the matter into their own hands.”

“We wanted to do something conceptually new, not just a tourism project in new packaging,” says Svetlana Pimanova of Altourism. “Its novelty and the key to success were in creating resources instead of using what's available. The crucial resource is a local community that can drive the changes in their own hometown or village. The accelerator offered us technical expertise on the nuances of the tourism industry and a sense of unity with other entrepreneurs. You can create and develop amazing projects even in trying times.”

Svetlana Pimanova Svetlana Pimanova

The project covers territory spanning the whole of Russia, from Kaliningrad in the west to Chukotka in the east, and also includes Belarus. Altourism has organized over 70 such trips since 2014 as part of the project's ambitious goals to improve Russia's tourist infrastructure, to support small businesses, and to raise awareness about regional challenges. To that end, the team cooperates with large companies and regional authorities. For instance, they can take a village on the brink of disappearance under their supervision and bring it back to life in a year by reviving its economy. Altourism has recently set up an accelerator of its own for artisans in the Buryat Republic in eastern Siberia. Called Craftsman's Way, the project employs a highly relevant business model: on the one hand, it is commercially viable, and on the other, it presents social entrepreneurship at its finest. Most importantly, it offers a fresh take on tourism as an industry.

Special Award

Showing the world to everyone who wants to see it


We are always ready to support humanistic projects. One such project is Accesstravels, an Israeli startup that participated in our accelerator. The project is an online platform that aims to make traveling accessible to everyone regardless of their health status or specific circumstances.

The idea sprang from the personal experience of the startup's co-founder, Damir Miller, who has to use a wheelchair. In Jerusalem, he found himself unable to get into his fiancée Talia's apartment because she lived on the second floor of a house without an elevator. The couple started traveling around Israel and staying in wheelchair-accessible hotels. Eventually, their list of such places became so long that they decided to share it with others. This is how Accesstravel.com was born — the first Russian-speaking online community for people with disabilities. Its purpose was to aggregate first-hand experiences to make traveling accessible to everyone. Hotels often claim to be accessible to all categories of guests, but this is not always the case. Russian-speaking volunteers all over the world have risen to the challenge of fixing this. They check if hotels, restaurants, museums, and other establishments have elevators, handrails, wheelchair ramps, accessible showers, and even appropriate entrances and exits.

Damir Miller Damir Miller

“Our participation in the accelerator has helped our team to hone their pitching skills, to develop our idea and business model, and to partner with leading tourism industry players such as Amadeus and Booking. We have reached a new level of confidence and freedom,” says Damir Miller, founder and CEO of Accesstravels. “Kaspersky's experts and partners provided international-level assessment and validation of our project, and we got to know the fabulous GoTech team. I’d also like to express my gratitude to the most active participants of our project: the software developers Alexey Bychkov and Nikolay Lavrinovich, Valentina Yashchenko, and Dmitry Kulik.”

You can also book a room via Accesstravel.com and be sure that you will find everything you need. The platform features a forum where community members exchange opinions, share travel experiences, and look for guides, travel companions, and new friends.

Accesstravels fell short of winning but received a special award from Amadeus, a global system for booking flights and tourism services. The team will get an opportunity to pitch its project to the company's experts and receive subsequent guidance. Amadeus will also include the startup in its Access Catalog.