Everyone in the tech world knows Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire and Facebook investor with a $100 million Silicon Valley mansion. Fewer Americans are are familiar with Leonid Boguslavsky, who ranks right behind Mr. Milner at no. 2 on Forbes list of powerful figures in the Russian tech establishment.
But that may change quickly with the opening of RTP Ventures, the U.S. arm of a
$750 $700 million fund. RTP’s U.S. arm is based in New York and managed by Kirill Sheynkman, a former EIR at Sequoia, venture partner at Greycroft, and a well-established veteran of Silicon Valley. “I’ve lived most of my career in Silicon Valley and that is where I founded my companies, but I fell in love with New York. I’m a city person and this is the best place for me to run this new venture,” Mr Sheynkman told Betabeat by phone.
RTP Ventures has a unique complexion for a VC fund. “Because Leonid is basically the GP and the LP, we didn’t have to form a thesis and go out to pitch investors. This is money he made investing in tech, not coal or oil.”
Mr. Boguslavsky has backed firms like Yandex, the largest search engine in Russia. “Of course people here know Yandex because it is a public company on NASDAQ, but Leonid also backed Ozone, for example, which is the largest online retailer in Russia, kind of like our Amazon,” said Mr. Sheynkman. “He was looking to diversify his investments and to find someone who understood both the Russian and US markets.”
So far, says Mr. Sheynkman, RST has made two investments, with four or five more planned before the end of the year. These first two fundings were based in Silicon Valley, where Mr. Sheynkman attended Stanford and worked at Oracle. He also founded two companies there, Plumtree Software in the 1990s and Elastra Corporation, where he worked from 2007 to March of 2010.
Mr. Sheynkman considers Roger Ehrenberg a friend, and says what Mr. Ehrenberg has done with IA Ventures is a good model. “You hear people in New York say, ‘Oh, you’ve got big data, you should talk to Roger.” He hopes that RTP will find a similar niche in Silicon Alley. “There are companies here I like. MongoDB brings a smile to my face. Bit.ly on the scientific side or Enterproid. But these are the exceptions you can count on your fingers.”
Nonetheless, while the type of companies he invests in–IT, SaaS and cloud computing–are typically based on the West Coast, some of their biggest customers are right here on Wall Street. “Being in New York helps you to get the perspective of that consumer as well.”
In fact, the lack of hardcore, hi-tech venture in New York might be his biggest opportunity. “In New York I am a strange animal. Most investors here do consumer web, media and advertising. They look for a startup with some traction and customers to invest. I want to find companies whose market won’t exist until five years from now. That is not something you can put into a spreadsheet. It’s taking a big bet on the future of technology.”