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New investment fund Skolkovo Ventures launched at Startup Village

The Skolkovo Foundation announced the official launch of Skolkovo Ventures – three new investment funds devoted to IT, industrial technology and biotech – at the Startup Village open-air conference on Tuesday.

The investment funds have been set up in partnership with Russian Venture Company, a state investment vehicle. Skolkovo Ventures will operate out of an office in the Skolkovo Technopark, and will be headed by Vasily Belov, who was formerly the Skolkovo Foundation’s senior vice president for innovations.

Vasily Belov (right) heads the new tripartite investment service Skolkovo Ventures. Photo: Sk.ru.

“As you know, in the last two years, the volume of investment on the venture market has decreased by 2.5 times in dollar terms,” said Belov, explaining the reasons for setting up a commercial venture fund. “Yes, you can say that in ruble terms, the volume remains about the same, but the venture business is global, so unfortunately that argument doesn’t stick here. As a development institute that supports a large number of startups, we’re seeing a deficit of money, and in particular money that would allow companies to grow and enter foreign markets,” he said, adding that helping companies to go global and attract foreign investment would be the focus of Skolkovo Ventures.

Each of the three funds has 2.2 billion rubles ($39 million) in capital, and RVC is the anchor investor, having put up 1.5 billion for each fund, said Belov.

The main criterion for investment in tech startups is the same as for Skolkovo Foundation residency status: their products or services must have global export potential, said Alexander Povalko, head of RVC.

Skolkovo’s investment department headed by Vladimir Sakovich is being integrated into Skolkovo Ventures, said Sakovich. The new investment platform has also partnered with three existing private venture funds specialising in each of its focus areas: iTechCapital (in IT), I2BF (industry) and Primer (biomed).

The IT fund will invest in startups working in areas including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and big data, said Gleb Davidyuk, managing partner of iTechCapital. The industrial fund will focus on the areas known as Industry 4.0: Internet of Things, robotics, AI, energy and space, said Alexander Korchevsky, a partner at I2BF. Dmitry Sharov, managing partner at Primer Capital, said that the biomed fund would look primarily for companies that have already reached phase I and II clinical trials.

Sharov said that the current environment for biomed companies was rewarding, citing the example of his own company, OCT, which conducts clinical trials and offers drug registration and other services to biomed and pharma companies.

“We used to get 90 percent of the funding for clinical research from abroad. Now it’s 50:50,” he said.

Major companies like Bauer and AstraZeneca are present in Russia and are investing in good projects, he added. AstraZeneca signed a partnership agreement with Skolkovo last month.

The partners from the private venture funds agreed that they would not be in competition with Skolkovo Ventures. “We will complement each other, not compete,” said Davidyuk.

“The new fund is the logical continuation of what we’ve been doing,” agreed Korchevsky.

Skolkovo Ventures will not be limited to investing in Skolkovo resident startups, said Belov. Up to 30 percent of the investments can be made in non-residents, but they must have international ambitions and be of strategic interest to the fund, he said.