Russian ‘ex-oligarch’ reportedly backing a new DeFi project

The former owner of a Russian bank seems to be pivoting to the decentralized space.

Russian businessman and self-styled “ex-oligarch” Aleksandr Lebedev is backing a new decentralized finance project that aims to compete across a broad spectrum of financial products.

As reported by Russian financial publication RBC, Lebedev is providing the initial funding for a DeFi startup under the working name of InDeFinEco, standing for Independent Decentralized Finance Ecosystem.

Lebedev said to have invested between $10 and $15 million as initial funding. The founder of Russian exchange Garantex, Sergey Mendeleev, is said to be his business partner in this venture.

Lebedev said that “DeFi does not require serious investment from a development standpoint,” and most of the funds are meant for initial seeding of liquidity. The project appears to be combining several DeFi primitives into one, with a lending platform similar to Compound or Aave being the primary product.

Mendeleev hinted that the project will also feature active portfolio management tools, similar to Yearn Finance or Rari Capital, as well as complex derivative products like futures and options on cryptocurrencies, gold and real estate.

According to Lebedev, “there are currently no analogous ecosystems” among DeFi projects, which may well be true given InDeFinEco’s particular combination. However, the individual concepts are not new and derivative trading is the focus of projects like Opyn or Synthetix.

The businessman said that the project plans to enter the top 10 existing DeFi projects with a total value locked target of $500 million. This is planned to be achieved primarily by adding attractive features on the platform, instead of just high yields.

The company behind the protocol will be incorporated in Switzerland, possibly in the crypto-friendly Zug valley.

Aleksandr Lebedev is known as one of Russia’s oligarchs, beginning his career — like many others — in the Soviet Communist Party and the KGB. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Lebedev acquired the National Reserve Bank of Russia, which grew to become one of the largest banks in the country.

Before 2012 his net worth was estimated in the billions of dollars, but an investigation by the Russian Central Bank and FSB crippled his bank’s fortunes, which was sold in 2019 after a dramatic balance sheet decline. The latest estimate from 2015 placed his net worth at $400 million.

Lebedev is also the owner of British publication The Independent and a major stakeholder of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, traditionally aligned with the Russian opposition. Lebedev now styles himself as an “ex-oligarch” and regularly denounces corruption in Russia.

Lebedev would join Vladimir Potanin, Russia’s richest man, in the short list of businessmen publicly involved with blockchain.

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