DST founder, Facebook, Zynga and Groupon investor Yuri Milner is one of the internet newcomers to Forbes’ billionaire list, and the magazine gave him a good profile treatment.
Here’s what we learned:
- He has giant, always-on flat screen TVs everywhere in his Moscow home, turned to CNN, CNBC and Twitter mentions of his companies.
- Because of the many timezones in which he operates—Moscow is 11 time zones away from Silicon Valley—he has three secretaries who rotate on eight hour shifts, and he expects DST’s small team to be available around the clock.
- DST Global’s team is only around two dozen people, most of them Goldman Sachs alums; über-VC Marc Andreessen says they’re “walking encyclopedias of internet business models.”
- After Spotify, “Milner could announce another big deal by the summer.”
- Milner has two young daughters. In the morning, he makes them recite their previous day to train their memory. A particle physics PhD dropout, he also teaches them maths and chess.
- Milner believes we live in the “age of the mathematician”, where those who can build the most powerful algorithms will make the most money. (Somehow, we think Larry Page and Sergey Brin concur.)
- At Wharton in 1990, where he was the first Soviet Russian to study for an MBA in America, he didn’t fit in; he showed up the first day in a suit and tie, because that’s how people did it in Russia. (Incidentally, perhaps not a bad tradition to bring back?)
- During the 1990s, Milner rose to become head of a brokerage in Russia. It was a 1999 report by Mary Meeker that convinced him to quit and start his own VC firm, when the internet was still in its infancy in Russia.
- Most of his early investments flamed out after the bubble crashed. The exception is Mail.ru, which he took over as CEO and turned around, and is now huge.
- Milner has been making big bets with big numbers for a while now. In 2006 he turned down a big Yahoo offer for Mail.ru and everyone thought he was crazy—until he took an investment at twice that valuation a few months later.
- “Mail.ru has invested $1 billion in 30 businesses since 2005.”
- When Milner first tried to talk Facebook into an investment and no one in Silicon Valley knew who he was, then-CFO Gideon Yu turned down a request for a meeting. Milner flew in from Moscow anyway and showed up at Yu’s office the next day, and talked him into another meeting with Zuckerberg, which led to the big investment 5 months later.
- DST says it hasn’t sold any Facebook shares and doesn’t want to, but some people think DST’s main backer, Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, wants to sell and might get his way.
- For Milner, showing up is indeed half the battle: when Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky mentioned to Milner the company might be looking for an investment, Milner showed up at their Chicago headquarters the next day, and walked away with the deal.
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