Should VCs be still investing in Russian founders — opinion

On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea. It is the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II. The allied countries all around the world reacted with comprehensive sanctions against Russia and Russians, and not only on the state level. Startup and VC ecosystem players also responded with boycotts. It is very significant that Y Combinator, the largest US startup accelerator, started to ban Russian founders from participating in its programs, for example. This topic still causes a lot of discussions among European and the US business community.

Borys Musielak, Founding Partner at one of the most active Polish VC funds SMOK Ventures, supported the discussion and expressed his opinion about should VCs be still investing in Russian founders now. AIN.Capital publishes his LinkedIn post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do as a VC in the current situation, especially that I’ve been reached out by a lot of Russian startups in the recent months. Their founders are desperately trying to raise by pretending to be Armenian, Serbian, Estonian or US startups now, but it’s usually pretty easy to track. A lot of those deals are potentially great deals, with very smart founders, so it’s not easy for me to say no, but I’m in no business of bailing them out.

We’re living in a black & white world. Especially in the times of war, there is no room for nuance. You gotta take a side.

So, if you are Russian, but don’t support Putin, you need to make it super obvious by either leaving the country, as a lot of smart people did in 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine, or, if you’re living elsewhere, by loudly calling out the lies of Putin and supporting Ukraine / donating to its army and making it public.

I’m sure there are probably a lot of good anti-Putin Russians who still live in the country, scared to say anything. I feel for you. But I cannot take a chance as a VC to make business with you at the moment, I’m afraid.

Borys Musielak is a Founding Partner at SMOK Ventures, a Polish-American venture capital firm. AIN.Capital ranked it as the second most active VC fund in Poland. Having PLN 46.3 million under its management, the fund has already made 8 investments during the period from January 2022 to July 2022.

Check out the full ranking of top local backers here.