Who exactly is Yuri Milner? I’ve heard this question asked quite a bit over the past year, as the Russian financier and entrepreneur has amassed significant holdings in key US Internet players – from Groupon to Zynga to Facebook (where he now owns around 10% of outstanding shares). His company, DST, has more than a billion invested in these social media players. (IT also purchased ICQ from AOL).
I had a chance to sit down with Milner in my San Francisco office, and ask him a few questions about his philosophy of investing, his background, and his strategy going forward. I’m very pleased he will be joining us at the Web 2 Summit – his approach to investing has upended a lot of presumptions about how “mezzanine” deals are getting done. In short, he cares little for the complicated structures and protective rachets of traditional pre-IPO rounds. He’s forced Silicon Valley legends to sit up and take notice. Oh, and by the way, he also owns major stakes in Russia’s most important social networking and Internet companies.
So what would you ask Yuri Milner? Here are a few thought starters:
– What’s your thesis behind investing? What do you look for when you make an investment?
– Does coming from Russia help or hinder your work? What do you want the Valley to understand about Russia that perhaps we don’t?
– Why do you so fervently believe in Facebook? What keeps you up at night about this investment?
– You are actively involved in your investments. What advice do you give to the CEOs of Groupon, Zynga, and Facebook?
– How do your terms of investment differ from traditional mezzanine players?
– Who are your next targets? Why haven’t you invested in Twitter or Demand Media? Betfair? Are there “types” of companies you are not interested in?
– What is the plan with your Russian properties? Do they have properties that you might export to the US or other markets?
– What do you plan to do with ICQ?