Anna Chapman

Alleged ex-spy Anna Chapman to launch online shop with logistic support from Otto Group

Anna Chapman, the Russian businesswoman and alleged secret agent uncovered by the FBI in 2010, has teamed up with the Otto Group to launch an e-commerce shop dedicated to her own fashion brand.

According to an agreement signed last month, the group’s logistic subsidiary eTraction will provide the warehousing, fulfilment, call center, and returns management services required to support the online shop. Delivery will be provided by eTraction’s specialized partners.

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Russian emblem

New personal data storage rules to affect both foreign and domestic players – but still no “Chinese wall” surrounding Russia

Some foreign players panicked last week when they learned about the new rules adopted by the Russian parliament regarding the collection and storage of personal data – which will be allowed only on the Russian territory starting from Sept. 2016. Concerns were fuelled by inflated media reports, including a Google Translate-based article that appeared on an influential Californian tech blog.

While storage of personal data on servers located abroad is allowed under the existing legislation – with some restrictions – the new rules demand that only servers located physically on the Russian territory be used. Should an online resource fail to respect this obligation, access to it from Russia may be restricted or blocked by state regulator Roskomnadzor.

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Package tour reseller secures $7 million investment from EBRD and Polish fund MCI

Polish private equity fund MCI Management has teamed up with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to inject $7 million into, a Russian online reseller of package tours. The amount invested by each of the two investors has not been disclosed.

The funds will be used “to enhance further Travelata’s online services and unique customer experience as well as for expansion across Russia’s regions,” the company stated.

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Russia microelectronics

Russia wants no more reliance on foreign high tech

As part of a large set of actions that are designed to lessen Russian reliance on foreign technology and digital services, government agencies in the Irkutsk region (Siberia) were ordered last month by the presidential administration to stop using the services of Google.

The ban concerns the use of Google’s web resources for the storage of official documents, the use of Google software to create websites for government agencies, the use of Gmail for official mail and “Google search engines for searches of the Internet sites of state agencies.”

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$38 million not enough for a startup – Ostrovok closes 5th round of funding in 3 years, a major Russian hotel booking service, announced last week that it has raised $12 million in a round led by Vaizra Capital, a fund which belongs to Vkontakte co-founders Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and Lev Leviev.

A number of the startup’s existing investors also took part in the round. The transaction, the details of which have not been disclosed, brings total investment in the project to more than $50 million.

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VC investment falls 40% in Q1 2014 – Seasonal variation or worrying contraction?

Venture investment volumes in Russia fell 42% as the number of completed deals dropped 38% in Q1 2014, says Rye, Man and Gor Securities (RMG), an independent Moscow-based investment company, in their latest quarterly report published with the participation of East-West Digital News.

In what appears to be a new low for at least the past two years, transaction volume reached just $109 million last quarter, down from $187 million in Q4 2013.

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SpinUp Partners leads Russian startups to global markets via Singapore accelerators

Over the past months Russian seed-stage fund SpinUp Partners has invested in two Asian startup accelerators – a pioneering move among Russian funds, which usually consider California the prime destination in their global investment strategy.

In March, SpinUp Partners was the secondary investor in an international consortium that injected $2.1 million into Singapore-based Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI).

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E-commerce study

Cross-border sales will continue to thrive with mild tax regime and simplified customs procedures

The intense lobbying efforts of domestic Russian retailers against cross-border e-commerce received a serious blow last week when it was confirmed that the expected increase in customs taxes would be extremely mild. The long-awaited decision was announced by Deputy Minister of Communications and Mass Media Mikhail Yevraev at an expert committee last Thursday, a participant in the meeting told East-West Digital News.

Russian Internet users will continue to enjoy tax-free shopping through foreign retailers, as long as their purchases do not exceed a value of 150 euros or a weight of 10 kg per parcel. Above this limit, purchases will be subject to a 30% tax, as previously.

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From Russian funding to an American exit: French startup Capptain acquired by Microsoft

Yesterday, French mobile analytics startup Capptain, which so far had been funded by Moscow-based venture fund Runa Capital, announced it was being acquired by Microsoft. The amount of transaction has not been disclosed, but Runa’s PR Director Liliana Pertenava told East-West Digital News that the fund had made “lots of money” on this investment.

While the startup will remain a separate product development entity, its technology will be integrated into Microsoft Azure, a line of cloud services intended to accelerate mobile app development and enable ongoing customer engagement.

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Payment systems

New rules on user identification may significantly affect cross-border payments from Russia

On May 16, amendments to the Russian legislation on payments came into force with potentially far-reaching consequences for e-payment and e-commerce companies working with Russian customers – including those operating from abroad.

The amendments, included in an “anti-terrorism” package adopted by the Russian parliament on May 5, make user identification mandatory for electronic payments in certain situations where anonymous payments were previously allowed.

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East-West Digital News is published with the support of:
  • Higher school of economics
  • The Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge
  • Russian Venture Company
  • Territory of tomorrow foundation