Pitch Johnson to tap into Russia economy

Silicon Valley VC pioneer Pitch Johnson, founder of the Asset Management Co., is developing an offering memorandum for a tech-based venture fund in Russia, PE Week has learned.

The effort comes as investor interest there has rebounded in the last couple of weeks, as the Russian government has committed funds to growing domestic venture firms.

The target size of Johnson’s Russian Technology Fund II is undisclosed, but the effort comes 11 years after he launched his first $10 million Russian fund in 1995, with Harry Fitzgibbons, the managing director of Top Technology Ventures in London. The fund did well, Johnson says, until the Russian financial crisis of 1998. It made a handful of investments after the correction that made the fund worthwhile, he says.

“The Russia of the future is orderly, and a place where you can do business without worrying too much about crooks and gangsters,” Johnson says. “Our experience was good there. When we did have a problem, the local courts stuck up for us.”

Separate from Johnson’s effort, Russia’s communications Minister Leon Reiman announced last month that the government had launched a $500 million fund-of-funds targeted at stimulating the growth of technology companies in the region. The fund could expand to $1 billion, depending on the interest of outside investors.