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Experts of the Russian gaming industry report that Russian gamers are less active in paying for virtual goods compared to their Western counterparts. Two of the biggest local social games developers, i-Jet Media and Progrestar, claim only 5-7% of all gamers buy virtual goods when playing. In comparison, about a third of gamers pay for virtual goods in Western countries (and about 60% of paying gamers buy goods at least once a month), according to the recent research by VGMarket.
Another big Russian game developer, Innova, noticed a further characteristic of Russian gamers: '...unlike gamers in the West, in Russia players want to pay for something that would improve their character's abilities, not change their appearances'. Though this is mostly true for massively multiplayer online role-playing games, not social games.
Yandex, has invested in one of the applicants and finalists that took part in its Yandex Start event on March 15th - Zenmoney.ru. Zenmoney is a personal finance startup developing an accounting and planning application.
Ambient Sound Investments, ASI, has made its first exit from Russia according to Quintura. ASI has sold its stake in SaaS-based inventory management software provider LogneX (Moy Sklad). Interestingly enough, LogneX was also ASI's first investment in Russia. ASI sold its stake to 1C, which is a Russian based ERP service provider.
Travelmenu is among numerous online travel booking start-ups in Russia that recently closed impressive funding rounds. Runa Capital and Almaz Capital each contributed $800,000 to the project. Alexander Galitsky, Managing Director of Almaz Capital, commented: 'In Travelmenu we found a company that holds a promising position in the emerging market of online tourist services and in the future can claim a large share of that market'. The new investment would be used to attracted more users to the service as well as develop its infrastructure and establish a strong position in Russia and Ukraine.
Local and foreign developers take an interest in Russian mobile market. It is rapidly growing and given the country's 145+ million population it has a lot of potential. To find out latest trends, figures and facts about mobile and tablet market in Russia we interviewed Kiril Petrov, Managing Director, and Ilya Chernetskiy, Strategy Marketing Manager, from i-Free Innovations. I-Free is a St.Petersburg-based Russian software developer and distributor for mobile apps, e-commerce and marketing. It was founded in 2001 and it operates mostly in Russia and CIS. The company employs 350 people and apart from Russia and CIS has offices in India, China and Brazil.
Microsoft BizSpark European Summit released the names of the 14 finalists from the whole of Europe. The competition involved hundreds of startups from all over Europe and making it to the top means that the selected startups had great potential to impress the selectors. Each of the finalists had to battle their way to this spot against numerous companies and two qualification rounds to grab a chance to pitch their ideas live in front of an audience of investors and a panel of expert judges. This final event will be held on June 14, in Brussels. Impressively, 4 companies are from the Northern European region.
Yandex has been on top when it comes to coverage recently and sharing another piece won’t be surprising. Unless it isn’t positive. BBC has mentioned that Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine has confirmed sharing confidential data with the state’s secret service; the FSB. Bad news, given that Yandex had set its eyes on raising $1 billion via listing on Nasdaq.
The Helsinki based Aalto Venture Garage is putting together in international incubation/acceleration program for very early stage projects that should turn to startups later this summer. In total, 17 teams from the region were accepted into the program from around the Baltic Sea. 3 teams were from Russia, 2 from Latvia, 1 from Lithuania and Estonia as well as Sweden and the rest were from Finland (9).
Serge Faguet is a Russian-born serial entrepreneur. Having built and exited a successful start-up in the Silicon Valley, he recently moved to Moscow and founded a new venture. Serge shared his reasons for switching countries in an interview with Forbes.ru. Serge's most successful start-up so far is Tokbox, a simple tool for video conferences, which he created while studying for a Stanford MBA. Tokbox raised $4,5M initial funding from Sequoia Capital and other investors. Serge exited the company in 2008, receiving a substantial but undisclosed sum. About a year ago he moved back to Moscow and together with Kirill Makharinsky founded an online hotel booking service for Russian-speaking users Ostrovok.ru.
Yandex has success written all over it when it comes to being the leading search engine and the most visited site in Russia with over 21.5 million average monthly users. When you are this big, there is little reason why you won’t try different things. We have been talking about the Russian Internet company and news has always been different. From providing aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring at Yandex.Start to funding the same with Yandex.Factory. In its latest release, Yandex announced the launch of Yandex Maps, with map of Moscow and Moscow region being the first to be rolled out earlier.
Russian firm, Yandex is waking up to assist startups with funding with the initiation of Yandex.Factory. Yandex.Factory is a startup investment program that will provide funding to startup projects in Russia as well as those from the International arena and this investment is by no means small.
'Venture capitalism works like the solar system: when the sun moves, the rest follow',- said Lubov Simonova-Emelyanova of Almaz Capital Partners. The sun in this metaphor is Digital Sky Technologies (DST). The fund's sheer size and growing activity prompted other Russian investors to increase their investment activities. Russian venture capitalists are expected to make much more investments this year compared to 2010. The catalyst might have been DST's announcement of opening a new fund, DST Global2, which already invested in Groupon this January and is said to be negotiating a $100M-worth funding round with Spotify. Following the lead Almaz Capital Partners announced their plans to invest in four start-ups with the overall sum of investment comprising $30M.
Online gaming and social gaming are the two biggest blocks of the gaming market in Russia. The market's overall worth has been growing by roughly $20M a year since 2008, reaching $250M in 2010. The 20-30% growth is expected to continue in the following years, estimates RIA Novosti. Between 3-5M people actively play online games, mostly MMORPG client and browser-based games. Even more people - between 10-15M - play social games on local social networks like Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki. Large as they might seem, those numbers pale in comparison to the number of online gamers in Europe or US. Russia is lagging behind due to its slowly developing Internet connections (especially in the regions), forbidding price of unlimited data plans and undeveloped online payment systems. At the same time, all of those are changing to the better which is why online gaming market is set to grow to $400M in 2012. Other facilitators of growth include social networks' growing audience together with a growing number of successful online games.
Russia’s largest online payment system, Yandex.Money announced the integration of Bank Cards into users’ existing Yandex.Money accounts. This integration would enable users to make payments with their cards and not actually giving away details, which often raises the issue of trust. Of course other than relieving users of the trouble when it comes to typing the card keys.
Groupon announced this week that they are going to partner with one of Russia's biggest social networks - Odnoklassniki. This means the social network's users will soon be able to buy Groupon's discounted deals with one-click without having to leave the Odnoklassniki website. Odnoklassniki is owned by the Mail.ru Group, which in its turn is owned by DST, which last year invested $135M in Groupon. With so many overlaps, it is not surprising that Groupon made a deal with that particular social network, even though it is not the biggest in Runet (Vkontakte is).
Russian tourists are known around the world for many things, some of them quite embarrassing. Despite their many shortcomings Russian tourists are also a gold mine for the hospitality industry: they travel a lot and they like spending huge amounts of cash while at it. A new Russian start-up Hipclub.ru, backed by Skype's former CEO Michael van Swaaij and founder of eDreams Javier Pérez-Tenessa, launched an invitation-only travel club that offers exclusive short-term discounts on hotels and travel destinations, reports Quintura. No details of the investment have been disclosed. The service is a new project from the team behind Hipway.ru - a search portal for exotic travel tours. That project was founded in 2009 and received over $500 000 investment from European and American investors. Founders behind both of the projects offered interesting insight into the Russian VC market on their blog [in Russian].
Yandex, one of the biggest internet companies operating in Russia and the likes of Kazakhstan and Ukraine reported its 2010 revenue increase 43% compared to 2009. The giant reported revenues of 12.5 billion rubles in 2010, which equal to $410 million US. Yandex makes most of its revenue from contextual advertising, just as its counterpart Google does in the US.
Amid recent news of Groupon closing a $950M funding round, it might be easy to miss that Digital Sky Technologies was one of the main investors. The Russian super VC is on a serious shopping spree. Apart from the Groupon deal it recently invested $50M in Facebook and is said to be eyeing a stake in Twitter, who is likely to be the next web darling to close an investment round soon. Add that to DST's stakes in Zynga, Vkontakte, Nasza-klasa.pl (leading Polish social network), HeadHunter.ru (Russia's largest jobs website) and a complete ownership of ICQ, Mail.ru and Odnoklassniki and you'd see a meer part of DST's might.
Mail.ru's IPO came as a blessing for the Russian Internet. Since its announcement interest in the Runet has grown exponentially. As the year comes to a close, it's time to look back at the major trends that have emerged and shaped Russian internet in the past twelve months.
First, the number of daily Internet users has grown by 5% in 2010, reaching 69% by the end of the year. 85% of monthly users prefer to user Internet from home and only 9% of the Internet users go online less than once a week. Thus, more Russian people are using Internet more and more often.
Russian media has recently been buzzing with news about the Skolkovo project, dubbed Russia’s Silicon Valley. Named after a business school nearby, Skolkovo will be a modern tech-hub for development and commercialization of new technology in the fields of energy, IT, communication, biomedical research and nuclear technology. Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev signed the decree to build Skolkovo already in 2009, building works will start in the second half of 2011 and construction is estimated to take 3-7 years. The overall budget for the project is $4-6 billion. Half of the sum would come from Russia's Federal budget, the other from co-financing agreements. Built on the outskirts of Moscow covering 3.7 km2, Skolkovo will be home for 40,000 people. Although Skolkovo currently exists only on paper, the project has already signed partnership deals with Nokia, Microsoft, Siemens and Rusatom, just to name a few.
Russia's biggest search engine Yandex is planning to file for a $1,5 billion IPO early 2011. The company will most likely choose London Stock Exchange for its listings, though New York's Nasdaq was also mentioned as an alternative.Yandex was planning to file for an IPO already in 2008 but world financial crisis got in the way and plans for an IPO were postponed. Sources close to the company shared that Yandex was valued at maximum $3M back then. The company was founded in 1997 and is today 7th biggest search engine in the world by the number of processed queries. More than 61% of the company belongs to investment funds like ru-Net Holdings, Baring Vostok Capital Partners and Tiger Technologies, 24% is owned by the company's managers and other stuff, 10% belongs to private investors and 5% to holders of stock options.
Such extensive venture funds are not commonplace in Russia. Created in August this year, Runa Capital positions itself as a qualitatively different player in the market. The fund's aim is to help talented Russian techies launch globally competitive products. The fund operates through an own incubator (Runapark) and looks for start-ups in the fields of cloud computing, mobile and Internet apps, machine learning and virtualization. Mihail Yshakov, junior partner, commented that priority will be given to projects with strong technological base to ensure they are hard to copy and while the main target group is Russian start-ups, they would be also be looking for cases in CIS and Sillicon Valley. Runa Capital is also planning to attract investors from USA and Europe to co-fund projects and share the expertise. Fund's founders and main investors add extra value for the projects since they include experienced and well-connected entrepreneurs like Serguei Beloussov (Chairman and CEO of Parallels) and Alexander Galitsky (founder Almaz Capital)
When it comes to technology and start-ups Russia can be full of mystery and surprises. First we learned this summer about an attractive Russian spy - Anna Chapman - infiltrating entrepreneurial scene in New York. Now there is a a serial entrepreneur who hides behind a fake indentity while his latest start-up is preparing for an IPO. It's the second story that is of interest here. The entrepreneur in question, who prefers to call himself Andrey Andreev (though some sources claim his real surname is Andrey Ogandzhanyants [Андрей Оганджанянц]) founded four tech start-ups since 1999, his latest one - a dating service named Badoo - is preparing to file for an IPO on London Stock Exchange. The service has about 80 million registered users and company's revenue is estimated to reach $200 million this year. Why is it that Andreev is hiding from the limelight and using a false name?
Russia has come a long way in the recent years in terms of establishing itself as an internet superpower. However, it has done it at such a speed that many parts of its legislation have not been up to date, regarding online payments for example. Yesterday, the Russian government approved a bill to clarify and regulate e-payments. The bill has been much awaited, according to Moscow Times, and online payments are expected to increase by 400 million euro this year.
Russian internet market is scarcely covered outside of the country but it's not for the lack of news. The main obstacle is language: most online services are oriented towards domestic market and are hence mostly in Russian. Another thing is innovation: there are few companies (if any) that have come out of Russia with truly ground-breaking ideas - most of the services are copies of similar American websites. Nevertheless, the number of internet users is growing together with the size of their pockets. Hence, a number of companies managed to build impressive userbases, make big bucks and dodge the competition from abroad.
According to the latest numbers released by TNS Russia and comScore, the top websites are:
Begun.ru is Russia's biggest contextual advertiser. It was launched in 2002 and six years later was approached by Google with an acquisition bid of $140 million. The deal did not go through, allegedly due to a blockage by Russian anti-monopoly authorities, but the site lives on independently. Begun's active advertisers increased this year by about 10 000 putting it at almost 40 000 unique monthly visits; its ads reach almost 22 million people. The number is quite considerable for Russia, where only 30% of the total population (or around 40 million people) uses Internet. Begun has been quite busy past couple of months coming out with three new features: static and flash ad banners on videos, embedded ads on satellite and cable TV channels and a mediaplanner tool that helps estimate advertising budget for the month.
Online gaming is a booming industry worldwide and Russia is no exception. I-Jet Media, founded in 2005 is one of the pioneers and a current leader in the Russian market with more than 60 million registered users and 70+ games. The company is allegedly valuated at $100 million, though some investors estimate this figure to be exaggerated and valuate it closer to $30-50 million. I-Jet Media is currently looking for $20 million funding for 25% stake in the company, Vedomosti reported. Alexey Kostarev, one of the founders, explained that the funding is needed to hire more developers around the world. The likely investors include venture funds like Almaz Capital, DST and Finam. Company's biggest success, a social game called 'Happy Farmer' ('Счастливый Фермер'), was launched in 2009 and within one year attracted 10 million registered users. It also generated $20 million in revenue, though half of that money went to Vkontakte.ru - Russia's biggest social network where the game was launched.
Mail.ru, former Digital Sky Technologies from Russia, is filing for an IPO in the London Stock Exchange. The company has received quite a bit of publicity in the recent years as it has invested into some high flying internet properties including Facebook and Zynga. Reuters reports that sources close to the deal say the IPO has been oversubscribed with more than two weeks left before pricing.
The Club of Leaders Good 2 Work with seems to be one of the well-kept secrets of Russia (and would have stayed so, had it not been registered on ArcticIndex). Good 2 Work is a virtual place (or sort of a closed social network) for executives and entrepreneurs of different levels and from different industries and countries. It is meant as tool for leaders to learn from and about each other in the field of business leadership. The primary means are professionally pre-recorded video conversations.
The club was established in April 2008 by Yuri Barzov, who was a partner with the executive search companies Ward Howell and Spencer Stuart. Yuri has also founded the 200+ thousands strong Russian learning community of managers, E-xecutive.