MTN and Cool Ideas are the fastest internet providers in South Africa, according to the findings of market reports published by Ookla. The reports…
Being a part of the Russians doesn’t mean you get a free bottle Russki Standard at tech events. Unfortunately. But what it does mean, is that you join a massive group of incredibly talented programmers and hackers and recently business-savvy tech folks, together with a whopping 150-million people all sitting in their warm homes tapping away at their keyboards.
The Russian tech scene has exploded in the last five years, with companies like search engine Yandex completing an IPO on the NYSE and startups popping out of the snow like daisies in Namaqualand. A quick word on Yandex – it is the most visited .ru website, four times more than Google.
Given all this activity, coupled with the knowledge that Russian oligarchs have copious amounts of cash lying around, one may ask where the venture capitalists are. So, it’s comforting to know that they are there, in droves as well. We take a look at the top nine, in no particular order.
Fully behind any Internet projects or startups, its team consists of a number of experts who have worked at other Russian VC firms. Dmitry Alimov worked at Ru-Net, and Gregory Finger starting DST together with Yuri Milner. One of its bigger investments was in BigLion.ru, a group buying website that beat Groupon all the way to the bank.
While focussing on most of the usual tech compontents of the startup ecosystem, Almaz, which means diamond in Russian, has also invested in Yandex. its main focus is on Internet Infrastructure & Services, Mobile & Consumer Applications and Electronic Commerce.
AddVenture is Russia’s only business angels fund. AddVenture accumulates private investors’ funds and invests them in venture projects.
With an About page full of suited men, Runa has made some excellent investments in startups such as ClipClock, Mambu and UBank. Also an early investor in Yandex.
ABRT Venture Fund was established by Ratmir Timashev & Andrei Baronov, the founders of Aelita Software, which is well-known in Russia for being sold to the Californian-based Quest Software for $115m in March 2004. The Aelita sale became one of the biggest deals in the whole Russia software market. The ABRT Venture Fund makes early stage and growth stage equity investments in companies that have developed innovative technology products or services and that display a significant competitive advantage.
Russia Partners is one of the pioneers in private equity investing in Russia and the CIS, which now boasts over $1B under management. What’s more, this VC takes time to go the road with entrepreneurs — its success has come from supporting entrepreneurs, not only with capital, but also with unique insight, experience and perspective.
IMI.VC is founded in 2011 by Igor Matsanyuk, one of the world’s most successful Internet entrepreneurs, and it looks for projects that are mainly online or mobile. Currently the IMI.VC portfolio includes leading mobile and social gaming companies such as GameInsight. It also provides the Farminers Startup Academy business incubator, which has 12 resident projects and 22 more innovative mobile development companies.
8. But what about Digital Sky Technologies? Some South Africans may recall the name DST investing in Facebook, Groupon, Airbnb, Spotify, Zynga and others. Well, truth be told, similar to the way Anna Kournikova plays her tennis, DST and its founder Yuri Milner are the biggest Russian VCs, but are not investing much, if at all, in Russian companies any more. Even its website is not in Russian.
All the above VCs are making investments, and the Russian startup ecosystem, with its ever-present genius developers, is providing deal flow never seen before. On the StartupGenome’s recent ranking of the top 20 startup ecosystems worldwide, Moscow hit 14th place and 8th on the trendsetter list. Russia is taking a big swing at the tech scene, and not only in VC power, but in terms of skills both inside and outside the country.
So hold your glass up high, put your deck chairs out on the tundra, and watch this space. Even bigger things are to come.