In America, 240 million people are wired…to the Internet. And in Russia, 60 million people are online. That’s nearly half of Russia’s population of 139,390,205 people. Russia is currently the largest Internet market in Europe, and its Internet population has been steadily growing year over year. The population of Internet users has just hit 42.8% of the entire Russian population. Last year, we wrote about the top 10 startups of 2011. But what are the top Russian startups? And are they all just American knockoffs?
We took a look at Russian startups, breaking them down into five categories: hotel booking, games, daily deals sites, discovery engines and social networks. Here they are, in no particular order whatsoever.
Oktogo.ru: The Russian Version of Kayak and Travelocity
Oktogu.ru is a Russian hotel booking site similar to the American sites Kayak and Travelocity. It received $5 million in April 2011. The site’s founders are also behind online property Mail.ru and DataArt, a premier software developing site for the EU and USA travel sectors. Oktogo.ru connects with users’ Vontakte.ru profiles, and aggregates reviews from TripAdvisor.com. CEO Marina Kolesnik, who is from St. Petersburg, studied at Harvard Business School. Quintura calls her one of the “most visionary female internet entrepreneurs in Russia.”
ZeptoLab Is Russia’s Answer To America’s Super Popular Angry Birds
What’s better than throwing angry birds at stone-and-wood structures populated with green pigs? In 2010, Moscow-based Russian developers Zeptolab created the iOS game Cut The Rope. Published by Chillingo, the game has already reached 60 million downloads. “Cut the Rope” is essentially a physics game that feels a lot like “Angry Birds.” Users use a finger to cut the rope at an angle. A piece of candy falls, hitting stars on its way down. Sometimes the piece of candy hangs by three ropes; other times by one. Zeptolab has not received any venture money for this, and by August of last year, ZeptoLab released a sequel, Cut The Rope: Experiments.
BigLion Is Russia’s Answer To Groupon, And A Total Rip-Off
BigLion delivers “the highest revenue growth in Russia’s Internet history,” according to Quintura. This site does, however, look and feel exactly like Groupon. TechCrunch wrote about Big Lion in April 2010, noting both how ideologically close it is and shooting down its very “cut/copy” ideas. “But how anyone can hold their head up high when this is hew they make a living is beyond me,” writes TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington. Ouch. Something must be working, however, because BigLion is making $15 million monthly revenues over its short 1.5 year run. At the end of 2011, Russian business daily Vedomosti reported that BigLion attracted funds from Tiger Global Management. East-West Digital News reported that BigLion co-founder Oleg Savtsov confirmed the deal; Vedomosti learned that the investment volume was in the $25-$30 million range.
SurfingBird Is Russia’s StumbleUpon
Surfingbird.ru is a discovery engine that personalizes to the user’s taste graph. Tell it what you like, and it finds pages, photos and videos that it thinks you will like. Users register with their Facebook, Vkontakte or Mail.ru accounts. In 2011, it raised $2.5 million in equity funding from Russian and French angel investors. It was founded in 2010.
Vkontakte.ru: The Russian Answer to Facebook
Vkontakte.ru, which translates to “In Contact,” is a Russian social network that rivals America’s Facebook. Its design strongly resembles Facebook of years past, but Russians are not spending their time on Facebook. Vkontakte.ru currently has 110 million users to Facebook’s 800 million. Approximately 70% of the visitors live in Russia. Of the Russian visitors, 25% are from Moscow, and 12% are from St. Petersburg. Vkontakte.ru reaches users in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus as well.