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In the western world there is a common belief, that innovative companies can only be built by the charismatic entrepreneurs who generate revolutionary ideas, inspire others to follow them and charm investors to put money into the business.
In Russia Fast Lane Ventures turned the concept upside down. Today I had a chance to speak to its CEO Marina Treschova. Here is what I have learned.
Fast Lane Ventures is not a typical venture capital firm. Rather its investment comittee decides what constitutes a good business idea, and then Fast Lane Ventures builds operational teams around the idea, applying the wisdom of its 50 in-house experts, which support businesses for the first 6 to 9 months of operation.
Backed by the internet gurus and successful businessmen Oskar Hartmann (CEO KupiVIP), Pascal Clement (President of Direct Group (Ozon.ru, Otto Group Russia, Rusfinance Bank) and international fund with German origins eVenture Capital Partners, Fast Lane Ventures has attracted over $50 million investment to date, creating 13 (soon to be 15) Internet companies since its launch in 2010.
Only in rare situations does Fast Lane Ventures invest in external teams, as Internet concepts proven elsewhere are in abundance in the current business environment. So far it has invested in two out of 1000 plus reviewed businesses. Needless to say, that most of the equity is retained by the fund.
In most cases Fast Lane Ventures creates Internet companies focused on the Russian-speaking market (ecommerce sites selling shoes, outdoor clothes and sports gear, a job, property, dating and travel portals amongst others) but there are some exceptions. Take Jizo.ru‘s new developement, for example.
The low-cost flight and accomodation search website Jizo.ru has recently launched a Facebook app which might just go global. Jizo has created an application, which offers low-cost flights to visit your friends. It will only offer flights to those cities where your friends live.
On Jizo Facebook page it says that that people are expected to buy flight tickets on impulse in real time, whilst Jizo will provide the best low cost deals it can find on the Internet. Facebook will support the app with advertisement. Provided a successful trial in Russia (initially Moscow), Sergey Lavrentiev, the CEO of Jizo plans to offer the app internationally, with a marketing support from Facebook. Roll-out of this service in other Russian social networks is also in progress.
Back to the bread and butter business of Fast Lane Ventures: the company plans to exit its investments within 3 to 5 years, but already now it receives a good level of interest from potential strategic buyers both from Russian companies and international businesses. So if you do want to be a player in Runet, which has the largest online audience in Europe, you might have no other option than to buy a ready-built business off Fast Lane Ventures, as it is expanding its Internet business empire at a full speed.
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vita at goaleurope dot com