Eldad Tamir of the Israeli financial group Tamir Fishman was one of the first foreign investors to announce his withdrawl from a major deal in Russia following the “velvet reprivatization” interview with Oleg Shvartsman. VentureBeat has a new interview with Mr. Tamir, who although remains undeterred from doing future business in Russia, remarks that Shvartsman’s role was to initiate the deal with the venture capitalists, and that it’s “very important to stay as far away as possible from politics.”
VentureBeat: Can you provide background on the deal? You won a special bid to set up up a joint fund with the Russian government — then what happened?Eldad Tamir: From the day we won the bid, we had to three months to raise another $40 million from other investors to match the $40 million we were putting in. It was difficult, with other investors putting money into Russia for the first time.The EBRD supplied $15 million out of this $40 million along with with funds of funds from US, Israel and Europe — it was a good group of investors. I worked hard to make it happen.Venture capital is a global game. Many people at Tamir Fishman speak Russian and have family from Russia. The deal seemed like something we could do easily.All the money was already in the bank and ready to go before the interview was published.Note: We’re professional fund managers. We are not interested in political involvement.VB: Who is Oleg Shvartsman?ET: At first, Shvartsman was the guy who came to me about the knowledge that there was a bid for a joint fund in Russia. He came to a venture conference in Israel.That was his role — initiating the deal. As a result, he got 20 percent of the management company, just a minority shareholder with no active role. For some reason, he made this interview about three weeks ago.If he weren’t engaged with us, nobody would have listened to him.VB: What’s happening now?ET: We’ve sat down with Russian government officials and investors. We’re holding off on starting another fund for now, but we’re looking at coming back in a few weeks to look at it in more detail.There will be a new bid in February or March for a special joint venture. We’re probably not going to bid, then, but we are talking to the Russian economy ministry and other investors about setting up another, more regularly structured fund. The Russians want us to come back.VB: What is the takeaway here for Silicon Valley investors?ET: Russia is a very early stage market and it has its risks. It certainly has potential for becoming a technology center. On the positive side are the engineers and the education system. Russia is complicated and it’s very important to choose the right poeple — and very important to stay as far away as possible from politics.