venture capital

By Rajeev Mantri, Navam Capital

Energy and clean technology investing has proven to be disastrous for venture capitalists. Capital allocated to clean tech fell to less than half in 2013 from the $3.7 billion invested in 2012, and new clean tech-focused funds were able to raise less than $1 billion last year, compared to $4.5 billion raised in 2012.

High-profile flameouts like Solyndra, A123 Systems, Konarka, Miasole, Better Place and Fisker Automotive have, appropriately enough, made investors very wary. Billions of dollars of equity has evaporated. Successes, such as Tesla Motors and Nest Labs, have been extremely rare. 

By Nick Davidov

The hallmark of the Ukraine crisis is uncertainty – we simply don’t know how it is going to develop. Normally, this would be a drain on confidence. But as the situation stands, investment remains strong, particularly in Russia’s tech sector. This is because Russian tech companies are fully integrated into the global economy – they don’t just sell products and services to western markets. Major players like virtualisation company Parallels Inc and security software firm Kaspersky are particularly strong in emerging markets. 

It’s one of the anomalies in global statistics: South America is home to the world’s highest proportion of entrepreneurs, yet their presence doesn’t often translate into global innovation or broad-based wealth creation.

Chile has been eager to change that reality. And, it seems, its efforts are starting to bear fruit. Several Chilean-bred tech companies have recently been acquired by venture capital funds, and three Chilean-focused VCs vowed to invest some $67m in Chilean companies this year. Is Chile really becoming “Chilecon Valley”? 

Surrounded by pit heads, slag heaps, industrial piping and hissing chemical plant, the city of Ostrava is more redolent of the Ruhr Valley of the 1960s than the Silicon Valley of today.

But the Czech Republic’s second largest metropolitan area (pop: 1.2m) has also sprouted a thriving IT culture, based on the Technical University of Ostrava. 

Turkey is far from terra incognita for technology companies but it is seen by some of them as a brave new world. The country – or at least its big cities – often seems crazy for technology, whether because of the sheer number of iPhones on display, fast broadband speeds or the sheer popularity of social media sites. 

When the Kremlin invited a group of US venture capitalists to Russia during the financial crisis, some of the visitors saw as much an opportunity to scout for fresh sources of capital as they did a new place to invest in.

Domain Associates, a California-based life sciences venture fund, has found a way of combining both goals in a partnership with Rusnano, Russia’s state nanotechnology company. 

By Ben Aris of business new europe

Five years ago, then-president Vladimir Putin floated the idea of a state-backed venture capital company to “leverage Russia’s intellectual capital.” No one disputes the Russians are clever or have good scientists – Russia was first to put a man into space, after all. The problem is that businesses see little point in investing into highly risky, long-term technology projects when they can earn guaranteed double-digit returns for doing no more than buying German equipment and putting it into a regional sausage factory. Thus the Russia Venture Company (RVC) was born and five years on its first projects are starting to hit the market. 

One of the biggest developers of Russian internet companies, Fast Lane Ventures, has formed a strategic partnership with VTB, the Russian state-controlled bank, as investor interest rises in Russia’s rapidly-growing internet sector.

Tuesday’s deal in which VTB Capital, VTB’s investment banking arm, becomes the lead investor in an $18m fundraising will give Fast Lane access to VTB Capital’s wide network of corporate clients, and its hefty financial resources. The partnership will also, presumably, help Fast Lane Ventures (FLV) fend off possible aggressive approaches from predatory oligarchs, wanting to snap up the business just as it becomes interesting. 

You can add venture capital to the growing list of areas where emerging markets are expected to outperform the developed world. Most venture capitalists in China, Brazil and India see the number of firms in their countries growing over the next five years, while the US industry is set to contract, according to a new survey. 

A group of US venture capitalists left Moscow this weekend intrigued, but not convinced by Russia’s plan to spur economic modernisation by building a Silicon Valley.

Dmitry Medvedev has championed the project to build the high-tech hub at Skolkovo, a village in Moscow’s woody suburbs. Dubbed “Inograd” by officials, it is the linchpin of the Russian president’s grand scheme to modernise the economy and wean it off oil and gas.