Russia Invites Foreign VCs To Return This Fall

The Russian government is working hard to lure foreign investment into the country, along with foreign and Russian expatriate scientists and engineers, although the success of this long-term project remains to be seen.

Representatives of 19 U.S.-based VC and private equity firms — along with people from Wilson Sonsini and Silicon Valley Bank — visited Russia in May, and representatives from three of those firms, along with five to eight new ones, are scheduled to return in October, according to Mikhail Chuchkevich, the project director of the Russian Corporation for Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO).

The guest list is still being finalized, and the dates — October 10 to 14 — are tentative pending confirmation from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is invited along with representatives of high-tech companies and California universities. (Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with Schwarzenegger when Medvedev visited California in June).

Russian organizers of the trip are RUSNANO, a corporation created by former President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin in 2007 to invest in Russian and foreign technology; the Russian Venture Company, a Russian fund of funds that’s invested in the solar power producer BrightSource Energy, among others; and Skolkovo, the Russian version of Silicon Valley that Russia is setting up outside Moscow.

American organizers are Silicon Valley Bank and Sasha Johnson, who is helping DFJ set up a fund with contributions from RUSNANO and VTB, the Russian bank, that DFJ will manage.

Reuters reported this morning that RUSNANO is in talks to invest in Plastic Logic, which is headquartered in Silicon Valley and makes e-readers. Plastic Logic has already raised over $200 million in venture funding, the company says, and has a deal to distribute its readers through Barnes & Noble (now for sale).

Chuchkevich did not confirm the Plastic Logic deal, but he said that “RUSNANO is a good partner for American VCs to get them into projects that need expansion and are capital intensive and can benefit from developing production and R&D in Russia, primarily for the European and CIS markets. We have capital for deals, green and brown field facilities, and R&D capacity across Russia. To build successful international businesses with Russian connections – that is the key model. At the same time we present to US VCs our deals, based on Russian technology, so it is a two-way street.”

Stay tuned for more details.