Fenox Venture Capital has all the trappings of a typical Silicon Valley venture capital firm. A high-priced San Jose address and over $600 million of capital committed to a portfolio of the most promising up-and-coming tech companies that California has to offer.
But Fenox’ origin story is more intriguing than the typical Harvard MBA-becomes-venture-capital-behemoth one more commonly sees in the industry. Enter Vitaliy Arbuzov – a Belarusian billionaire with an empire built on an automotive business he founded after graduating university. Now he is Chairman of Fenox Global – a multinational conglomerate with business units based in logistics, automotive components, construction, research & development, medical solutions, and insurance. And more recently venture capital.
Fenox Venture Capital was founded by Vitaliy Arbuzov and Anis Uzzaman in 2011. In recent years, Belarus had become a less hospitable place to do business and Arbuzov went quietly about the process of opening a venture capital firm in partnership with Uzzaman on America’s profit-friendly west coast.
Meanwhile back in the Eastern bloc, the byelorussian republic was casting about for a way to bolster their flagging economy and turned their gaze on private industry profits. To encourage a certain kind of cooperation, the state launched a criminal investigation in order to prompt companies to “donate funds” to the budget and to chasten business representatives.
In 2017, Arbuzov was detained by authorities after this investigation raised tax evasion questions about his businesses. Not just any authorities, but the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) authorities. Because in Belarus, a statue of Lenin still stands proudly in their city center square and the original Soviet policemen are still the KGB. He served jail time after they found him guilty of tax evasion.
On the other hand, co-founder Anis Uzzaman has a much more traditional history. He received his PhD in computer engineering from Tokyo Metropolitan University and has a long and successful career with strategic investing in the software development, microelectronics and e-commerce industries. In addition to his work with Fenox, he also heads up Pegasus Tech Ventures.
Fenox thinks of themselves as “global investors” – those who invest in more than one foreign market. True to their word, they have a well-established international presence with offices located in Europe, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, China and Bangladesh. What makes Fenox stand out from the rest is their specialization in helping emerging tech companies expand into new international markets.
“I started the firm in 2011 with the concept of it being a bridge from Silicon Valley to the rest of the world, mainly in Asia where two-thirds of the world’s population lives,” Uzzaman said in an interview. “All of them are innovation-hungry and want to improve their technology with the help of the technology coming out of Silicon Valley.”
But it doesn’t just go one way. Silicon Valley start-ups have been snuggling up together in their own little Western-ecosystem-nest for years and Fenox wants to help them spread their wings.
“So, we became the bridge for our limited partners to invest in the U.S. startups and for those startups to partner with our investors to migrate and expand their business into Asian countries,” Uzzaman explained.
They invest in information technology, healthcare, artificial intelligence, robotics, big data, hardware, consumer, virtual and augmented reality, and financial sectors. Their most recent contribution was towards a February 2019 seed round that raised money for an Indonesia-based company called Infradigital Nusantara.