'Tweeting' Medvedev tours Silicon Valley

24th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired off his first "tweet" on Wednesday as he toured the headquarters of Twitter and other Internet stars on a mission to create a Moscow version of Silicon Valley.

Besides Twitter, the Russian leader also paid a visit to the offices of popular gadget maker Apple and secured a commitment from US networking giant Cisco that it would invest one billion dollars in Russia.

Twitter employees packed into a sixth-floor cafeteria where co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone gave Medvedev a crash course in the service, which lets people share terse messages of 140 characters or less and Web links.

Medvedev's first "tweet" from his new Twitter account, @KremlinRussia, was a message in Russian that was translated into English as "Hello everyone, I am now on Twitter."

In a possible sign of a budding Twitter lover, Medvedev immediately launched into a second "tweet," writing "Today I am going to visit the Silicon Valley companies including Apple, Yandex, and Cisco."

Couches were set up living-room style on a raised platform at the back of the cafeteria in Twitter's new headquarters one block from where Apple unveiled the first iPhone and the latest model that hits store shelves on Thursday.

A book case contained a silver framed photograph of Stone and Williams flanking fashion model Tyra Banks. Bicycles were parked in a bike rack along another wall and a large, lighted "@" sign hung from a wall.

"Hey, I just realized you're all not working," Stone said as he scanned the packed cafeteria. "That would mean..."

"Disaster," Medvedev quipped finishing the sentence for Stone.

Cisco executives took Medvedev and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on a brief tour of the company's headquarters in the city of San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley, the birthplace of the high-tech revolution.

Cisco said in a statement following the visit it would invest one billion dollars to "drive entrepreneurship and sustainable innovation in Russia."

Medvedev then went to Palo Alto, home of Stanford University, where he called on the small research and production offices of Russia's top Internet search engine and portal, Yandex.

"We are very much loved in Russia so we are proud that the president visits our office," Yandex co-founder Ilya Segalovich said before Medvedev swept into the room and shook hands with the company's workers.

"This is the first time in 12 years that I've worn a suit," Segalovich said.

A set of nesting "matreshka" dolls on a cubicle wall had Yandex the largest, shrinking then to Google then @mail.ru and Rambler before the tiniest figure labeled "Bing," Microsoft's search engine.

Segalovich and fellow co-founder Arkady Volozh demonstrated Yandex.ru workings for Medvedev, who posed for group photos with the workers before stepping across the street to meet with local Russians in a cafe.

A small crowd on the street cheered as Medvedev stopped to shake hands.

"I already tweeted a picture of the president's visit," whispered Segalovich as he translated Medvedev's comments for an AFP reporter.

Medvedev fielded questions from Russian business people, telling them it is vital for technology companies here to share what they learn with businesses in the high-tech hub taking shape in a Moscow suburb.

"Money is not everything," Medvedev said. "You have to have possibilities for science and business. Of course giants like Apple and Cisco are important, but more important is to start small companies."

Medvedev checked out Cisco creations while at the company, which specializes in computer networking gear but has been expanding into consumer electronics and online communications.

Before departing Russia, singled out as a priority the setting up of an innovation center in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo, envisaging it as a Russian Silicon Valley.

The project aims to entice leading Russian and foreign scientists to focus their energies on nuclear and bio-medical technologies, energy and telecommunications.

After wrapping up his US visit, Medvedev is to take part in the Group of Eight and Group of 20 summits in Canada over the weekend.

© 2010 AFP

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