Russian Steel Billionaire Invests $20 Million in Startups

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Alexey Mordashov built his fortune churning out tons and tons of commodity-grade steel. Now, Russia’s fifth-richest man is preparing for a world that wants more technologically advanced building materials.

To keep Severstal PJSC at the cutting edge of the sector, Mordashov’s steelmaker started a venture fund that invests in startups focused on anything from steel coatings to robots. Severstal Ventures will also consider materials such as concrete and wood, and this month it invested in Airborne, a Dutch company developing composites used in airplanes, ships and construction.

After evaluating about 5,000 projects, Severstal Ventures invested about $20 million in startups last year. The focus on new technologies, including carbon-free steelmaking, is part of a plan intended to ensure it remains one of the most profitable companies in the industry.

“We need to move toward offering new solutions for the clients and not only on the basis of the steel,” Mordashov said in an interview near Moscow.

Startups and Funds Invested in by Severstal Ventures
  • Pangaea Ventures: venture capital fund specializing in projects on advanced materials
  • Chrysalix RoboValley: specializes in investments in artificial intelligence, robotics and creation of new materials
  • Modumetal Inc.: makes corrosion-resistant nano-alloys
  • Arcanum Alloys: makes steel-based alloys, including product with properties equivalent to stainless steel, but with lower costs

Severstal will have a seat on Airborne’s board, said Andrey Laptev, director of the fund.

In the case of Arcanum Alloys, Severstal plans to license the technology in Russia and is already conducting tests in Cherepovets, he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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