Yuri Milner

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Yuri Milner
Yuri Milner.jpg
Yuri Milner in 2011.
Born (1961-11-11) 11 November 1961 (age 53)
Moscow, Russian SFSR,
Soviet Union
Residence Moscow, Russia
Nationality Russian
Alma mater Moscow State University
Wharton School of Business
Occupation Businessman (venture capitalist, Founder of Digital Sky Technologies (DST Global)
Net worth Increase US$ 1.8 billion (2014)[1]
Spouse(s) Julia Milner (née) Bochkova (m. 2004)
Children 2 daughters

Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner[2] (Russian: Ю́рий Бори́сович (Бенцио́нович) Ми́льнер; born 11 November 1961[3]) is a Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He founded investment firms Digital Sky Technologies (DST),[4] now called Mail.ru Group and DST Global. Through the Mail.ru Group and DST Global, Milner is an investor in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, ZocDoc, Groupon, 360Buy.com, Planet Labs, and Alibaba. Milner's personal investments also include a stake in 23andMe [5] and Beepi.[6]

Fortune magazine's list of the world's fifty most prominent business people in 2010 placed Milner at 46th place, making him the only Russian on the list.[7] In 2010 Milner was recognized by Russian business magazine Vedomosti as "Businessman of the Year". In 2012 he was included in the 50 Most Influential list of Bloomberg Markets Magazine. The Foreign Policy magazine included Yuri to its "Power List" - an inaugural list of 500 most powerful people on the planet released in May, 2013.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

Born into a Jewish family[9][10] on 11 November 1961 in Moscow, Yuri Milner was the second child of Russian intellectuals.[11] His father, Bentsion Zakharovitch Milner (Бенцион Захарович Мильнер), was a distinguished expert in the sphere of management and organization. He was Chief Deputy Director at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.[12] Betty Milner, Yuri's mother, worked at the capital's state-run laboratory for disease control. He has a sister, eight years his senior, who is an architect.

Milner studied theoretical physics at Moscow State University, graduating in 1985. He went on to work at Lebedev Physical Institute, one of the institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in the same department as the future Nobel Prize winner Vitaly Ginzburg. As a doctoral candidate in particle physics, Milner befriended Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov. Sakharov's forward thinking would later influence Milner's venture investment strategy.[13]

In 1990 Milner became the first non-émigré from the Soviet Union to go to the United States to receive an MBA at the Wharton School of Business.[11][14] The press quoted him as saying that he made this decision after "being disappointed in myself as a physicist".

Business career[edit]

Milner spent the first half of the 1990s at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., as a Russian banking specialist focused on the development of private sector banking. He has described his time at the World Bank as his "lost years", due to watching from afar the privatization of government holdings during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin.[11] In the spring of 1995, Milner was appointed CEO of Alliance-Menatep, an investment brokerage company belonging to then oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In December 1996 Milner worked as Vice President and Head of Investment Management of Menatep Bank. From February 1997 to December 2009, Milner was the deputy chairman and the head of the investment division of Menatep Bank. At the time, the market makers described him as "a well-known professional, who will bring the bank valuable experience in international financial institutions and transactions in the Russian investment market".

From 1997 to 2000, Milner was Director General of the investment fund New Trinity Investments. During this period, after reading a review by Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker on the prospects for online businesses, Milner decided to create an internet company. He sought funding from his friend from Menatep days Gregory Finger, who at the time led the Russian branch of the US investment fund New Century Holding. The fund agreed to invest $4.5 million with the proviso that Milner and Finger each personally invest $750,000.

Russian Internet investor[edit]

In 1999 Milner, Finger, and NCH created a new company, NetBridge. In 2000, Milner became the president Netbridzh Services Ltd (netBridge) - the company that "created as an Internet incubator and investment fund". Netbridge succeeded in transferring a variety of U.S.-pioneered internet business models to Russia, creating companies including the portal List.ru, online auction site Molotok.ru (based on eBay), free web-hosting Boom.ru (based on GeoCities), and online shop 24x7 (using the formula of Amazon.com).

In February 2001, netBridge and Port.ru (which owned Mail.ru) announced a merger. Milner became CEO of the new company named Mail.ru (though the legal name Port.ru was also retained).

From January 2003 to December 2004, Milner was the CEO of "Neftyanoi", (owned by Igor Linshits).

In 2005, NCH shifted its focus from the Russian Internet projects and Milner founded the investment fund Digital Sky Technologies (DST), becoming its chairman in 2006. A meeting through mutual friends resulted in Alisher Usmanov becoming a shareholder of Mail.ru Group in 2008.

In 2010 Mail.ru Group completed successful initial public offering on London Stock Exchange with market valuation of $5.6 billion.[15]

In March 2012, Yuri Milner stepped down from the role of Chairman of Mail.ru and from the Board of Directors.[16] Dmitry Grishin was elected to the Board of Directors and appointed as Chairman of the Board while retaining his CEO position. There were no other changes to management or to the Board.

Post Mail.ru Group’s IPO, DST is the sole vehicle for further international investments. The company is now fully independent of Mail.ru Group.[17]

From May 2009 to January 2012 Milner was a member of the Commission on Modernization established by Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President from 2008-2012.[18]

International Internet investor[edit]

In January 2009, while in Palo Alto, Milner became acquainted with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The meeting led to an agreement on 26 May 2009 under which DST bought a 1.96% stake in Facebook for $200 million.[19]

On 16 September 2010, Digital Sky Technologies (DST) changed its name to "Mail.ru Group". The group's portfolio included Mail.ru, Odnoklassniki.ru, ICQ, a minority stake in the social network VKontakte (Russian Facebook equivalent), online payments service OSMP.ru, e‑Port, as well as some other Russian assets. Milner's commercial interests in Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon were transferred to DST Global. Milner became the CEO of DST Global and the chairman of the board of directors of Mail.ru Group. In November 2010, Mail.ru Group held its offering on the London Stock Exchange.[20]

On 29 January 2011, Milner announced that he would invest $150,000 into each of the start‑up program participants selected by the incubator Y Combinator.[21]

On 2 August 2011, DST Global invested $800 million in Twitter and $50 million in ZocDoc.

In February 2014, it was announced that Milner had led a round of funding for cloud-graphics company, Otoy.[22]

Fundamental physics prize[edit]

In July 2012, Milner established the Fundamental Physics Prize and chose the first nine winners of this $3 million award that became the most financially lucrative academic prize in the world, beating both the Nobel Prize as well as the Templeton Prize combined.[23] In following years, one winner chosen by the previous winners will join the club. An American historian of technology and culture Edward Tenner claims that "this is not the first of the ultra-rich to attempt to one-up the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences". The name of 2013 prize winner was unveiled at the culmination of a ceremony which took place on the evening of 20 March 2013 at the Geneva International Conference Centre. The ceremony was hosted by Hollywood actor and science enthusiast Morgan Freeman. The evening honored the 2013 laureates − 16 outstanding scientists including Stephen Hawking and CERN scientists who led the decades-long effort to discover the Higgs-like particle at the Large Hadron Collider Sarah Brightman and Russian pianist Denis Matsuev performed live for the guests of the ceremony.[24]

Breakthrough prize in life sciences[edit]

In February 2013, Arthur Levinson, Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan and Yuri Milner announced the launch of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, recognizing excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life.[25] 11 inaugural winners receive US$3 million each for groundbreaking achievements in life science research. Both Fundamental Physics Prize and Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences are the largest scientific awards in the world.[26]

Long-term vision[edit]

Milner believes that the internet will develop into a "global brain"—which is often described as an intelligent network of individuals and machines—functioning as a nervous system for the planet Earth. He also envisages that the advent of the Internet of things and ever increasing use of social media and participatory systems such as Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia will increase our collective intelligence.[27][28]

Personal life[edit]

In an interview with Vedomosti in 2010, Yuri Milner said of himself:

"In the past few years I simply do not have time for hobbies. I am even starting to forget what I was fond of. Such as in the past it was reading of literature not related to work".[29]

Yuri is married to former high fashion model and contemporary artist Julia Milner. Mrs. Milner has achieved recognition for her photography. During the 52nd Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art Julia Milner received acclamation for her contribution entitled, Click I Hope.[30] The Milners live and work predominantly in Moscow with their two children. Milner attends synagogue, but says that he is only minimally religiously observant.[9]

In 2011 Yuri Milner bought a $100 million home in Los Altos Hills.[31] The compound spans three plots totaling 7 hectares and includes a roughly 25,500-square-foot (2,370 m2) main house and a 5,500-square-foot (510 m2) guest house. The current tax bill is about $304,000 a year. The Wall Street Journal reported the price as $100 million, saying it was the most ever paid for a single-family home in the United States. The property is appraised by the Santa Clara County assessor at only $50 million.[32]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

  • "The Midas List 2013-" Forbes, May 2013.[33]
  • "Power Map - 500 most powerful people on the planet" - Foreign Policy, May 2013.[34]
  • Most Influential 50 - BloombergMarkets, September 2012.[35]
  • The Silicon Valley 100 - Business Insider, February 2012.[36]
  • Top 50 Digital Power Players - Hollywood Reporter, January 2012.[37]
  • Businessperson of the Year – Top 50 - Fortune, November 2011.[38]
  • "Man of the Year" - GQ (Russian Edition), October 2011.[39]
  • "Vanity Fair’s New Establishment List 2011" - Vanity Fair, September 2011.[40]
  • "Kommersant of the Year" - Kommersant, June 2011.[41]
  • "The 100 Most Creative People" - Fast Company, May 2011.[42]
  • "The Midas List of Tech's Top Investors" - Forbes, April 2011.[43]
  • "World's Billionaires" - Forbes, March 2011.[44]
  • "Owners of Virtual Reality List" - Forbes (Russian Edition), February 2011.[45]
  • "Businessman of the Year" - Vedomosti, December 2010.[46]
  • "The Smartest People in Tech" - Fortune, July 2010.[47]


  1. ^ "The World's Billionaires: #1139 Yuri Milner". Forbes. March 2011. 
  2. ^ Fund to facilitate the preparation of the 300-year anniversary of St. Petersburg. - St. Petersburg Vedomosti, 30.05.2003. - № 319.
  3. ^ New deputy Manatees. - Kommersant, 11.02.1997. - № 8
  4. ^ Owen Matthews (6 January 2011). "Yuri Milner: Facebook's Russian Sugar Daddy". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  5. ^ Herper, Matthew (11 December 2012). "23andMe Nabs Billionaire Yuri Milner As Investor, Cuts Price To $99". Forbes. 
  6. ^ Del Rey, Jason (30 December 2014). "Used Car Site Beepi Lands $12 Million From Yuri Milner and AngelList’s Largest Ever Investment". ReCode. 
  7. ^ Yuri Milner in the directory Gazette
  8. ^ The Foreign Policy "Power Map" - http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/29/the_500_most_powerful_people_in_the_world
  9. ^ a b Wired Magazine: "How Russian Tycoon Yuri Milner Bought His Way Into Silicon Valley" By Michael Wolff 21 October 2011
  10. ^ Mousumi Saha Kumar. "Self-Made Billionaire Investor Yuri Milner Sets $3 Million Prize for Physics". Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Olson, Parmy (28 March 2011). "The Billionaire Who Friended the Web". Forbes. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  12. ^ "Официальный сайт Государственного Университета Управления". Guu.ru. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  13. ^ Parmy Olson. "A Day In The Life Of Yuri Milner, Web Billionaire - Forbes". Blogs.forbes.com. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  14. ^ Harvey, Mike (30 May 2009). "Big shot Yuri Milner makes logical expansion of his network". The Times (London). 
  15. ^ Mail.Ru Group IPO Pricing Announcement http://www.londonstockexchange.com/exchange/news/market-news/market-news-detail.html?announcementId=10706676
  16. ^ Mail.ru Group press release http://corp.mail.ru/en/press/news/1339
  17. ^ Mail.ru Group prospectus http://www.rns-pdf.londonstockexchange.com/rns/7389V_-2010-11-5.pdf
  18. ^ http://premier.gov.ru/en/
  19. ^ Gustin, Sam. "Time Tech 40: The Most Influential Minds in Tech". Time. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  20. ^ "Mail.ru Group Limited Announces Intention to Conduct an Initial Public Offering and Listing on the London Stock Exchange". BusinessWire. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  21. ^ Arrington, Michael. "Start Fund: Yuri Milner, SV Angel Offer EVERY New Y Combinator Startup $150k". TechCrunch. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  22. ^ Takahashi, Dean. "Russia’s premiere tech investor Yuri Milner invests in cloud graphics company Otoy". Venture Beat. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  23. ^ Chang, Kenneth (31 July 2012). "9 Scientists Receive a New Physics Prize". New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  24. ^ http://www.fundamentalphysicsprize.org/news/news4
  25. ^ http://www.breakthroughprizeinlifesciences.org/news1
  26. ^ The Economist, Take that, Alfred. http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/02/science-prizes
  27. ^ Chrystia Freeland: The advent of the global brain
  28. ^ Ben Parr:Could Facebook Become the Basis for Artificial Intelligence?
  29. ^ "There is coming an era for people with a mathematical state of mind" - Yuri Milner, Founder of DST Global, Chairman of the Board of Directors Mail.ru Group / / Anastasia Golitsyn, Igor Tsukanov, "Vedomosti", 28.12.2010, 246 (2764).
  30. ^ "RUSSIAN DREAMS". Russian Dreams Info. 2008. 
  31. ^ Pender, Kathleen (12 May 2011). "Yuri Milner buys $100 million Los Altos Hills home". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  32. ^ Russian tycoon's Silicon Valley mansion worth half its $100 million purchase price, assessor says - San Jose Mercury News
  33. ^ Forbes | Power Map
  34. ^ ForeignPolicy | Power Map
  35. ^ | BloombergMarkets | Most Influential 50 in Global Finance List: Bloomberg Markets
  36. ^ The Silicon Valley 100: 1-100 - Business Insider
  37. ^ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/hollywood-reporter-digital-50-power-list-280333/group/Who%20Pays%20the%20Way | The Hollywood Reporter | Top 50 Digital Power Players
  38. ^ "2011 Businessperson of the Year". CNN. 
  39. ^ http://www.gq.ru/talk/moty/3722/
  40. ^ The New Establishment 2011 - Yuri Milner | Business | Vanity Fair
  41. ^ Ъ-FM - "Коммерсантъ" одарил бизнесменов щедрой рукой
  42. ^ Yuri Milner | Fast Company 2011 | Fast Company
  43. ^ "#25 Yuri Milner Digital Sky Technologies". Forbes. 
  44. ^ | Forbes| World's Billionaires 2011
  45. ^ Хозяева виртуальной реальности | Forbes.ru
  46. ^ ВЕДОМОСТИ - Бизнесмен года
  47. ^ "The smartest people in tech". CNN. 9 July 2010.