(CORRECTION: The story in its original version incorrectly stated taht the Russian Venture Company is a $2 billion fund-of-fu.)
The Russian government has been spending a lot of money in recent years on efforts to rev up its entrepreneurial ecosystem. Now it appears more of the strategy and budget will be directed at cross-border investments, with an eye to U.S. technology companies.
That was a takeaway from an interview yesterday with Axel Tillmann, CEO of RVC–USA, the U.S. arm of the Russian Venture Company, a government-sponsored $2 billion fund-of-funds focused on venture capital. The group announced this week that it has opened its U.S. headquarters in Boston, with an additional office in Silicon Valley.
Tillman says he expects RVC-USA will roll out a dedicated fund later this year, with the Russian Venture Company as limited partner. While the size is not set yet, he expects it will be in the $50 million to $80 million range, and will invest in companies that align with its mission of fostering technology innovation in Russia. While there are no rigid rules for who will get funded, the gist is that RVC-USA will prefer startups with an interest in Russia as a place to hire talent and roll out products and services.
“What we want is to build a bridge for one of the best countries in the world for entrepreneurship, which is the U.S., and one of the best countries for R&D, which is Russia,” says Tillman, adding that this is not the first effort by the Russian Venture Fund to expand its international footprint. To date, the fund-of-funds has created some funds in Russia and the U.K. as well as invested as a limited partner in U.S. venture firms DCM, Trident Capital and Institutional Venture Partners.
The venture fund is part of a multi-pronged effort by Russia’s government to expand its technology industry. Other initiatives include state-sponsored Rusnano, a multi-billion-dollar fund to commercialize developments in nanotechnology, and Skolkovo, a hub for tech companies near Moscow. All are looking to ramp up networking in Silicon Valley and are currently sharing office space in Menlo Park, Calif.
Russian Venture Company and its funds invest in all the typical VC sectors, including cleantech, life sciences, semiconductor, software and Internet technologies, Tillman says. And though it doesn’t have a dedicated U.S. portfolio yet, it does have a stake in Oakland, Calif.-based Brightsource Energy, a developer of solar thermal technology. RVC is also funding Maxwell Biotech Group, a $100 million fund for life sciences investments headquartered in Moscow with an office in Boston.