Authorities raid head office of Sarava, Iran’s leading venture capital firm

Bourse and Bazaar | Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: The head office of Sarava, Iran’s leading venture capital firm, was raided by authorities on Tuesday morning in unclear circumstances.

In a statement given to Iranian tech website Digiato, Ali Semsarilar, a member of Sarava’s corporate leadership, confirmed the raid. Semsarilar stated that “with the presence of law enforcement and the judiciary and their investigation, activities are stopped at [the Alvand Street] office.” However, work at company’s office at Pardis Technology Park remains uninterrupted.

Rumors in the aftermath of the raid suggested the company may have come under scrutiny for tax evasion, but Semsarilar dismissed the suggestion, noting that “if there were a tax problem, all of the company’s offices would have been shut. The entrance door of the office was destroyed and clearly such an act is not the work of the tax authority.”

The company declined to comment further, stating that providing further details “may have a negative impact on the investigation.”

Founded by Said Rahmani, Sarava is the most successful venture capital firm in Iran and the principal backer of Digikala, Iran’s e-commerce giant, Cafe Bazaar, the country’s leading app store, and Avatech, an incubator. Sarava has received the majority of foreign investment in Iran’s start-up technology sector to date and recently raised over EUR 100 million from European investors.

The raid will raise concerns of a politically motivated crackdown on Iran’s start-up sector, which has been targeted by hardliner media as a hotbed for “Western infiltration.”

The Rouhani government, which has cast itself as both tech-friendly and open to foreign investment, will be under significant pressure from commercial leaders to clarify the grounds for any investigation against Sarava.