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Meet the Six Russian Tech Giants You Need to Know

"I demand more cat videos."

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Russia might not be known for its embrace of free enterprise, but that hasn’t prevented a few innovative companies from enjoying massive growth (and profit).

Foreign companies looking to reach the country’s 143 million inhabitants have had the hardest time. In recent weeks, the government threatened state officials with dismissal for using WhatsApp; banned PornHub and YouPorn; and warned that Facebook drones would be blown out of the skies.

Even homegrown tech companies are not immune from massive government interference. And yet, innovative companies continue to proliferate in the Russian Federation.

Check out six Russian tech giants you need to know.

VKontakte
Founded in 2006 by then-21 year old Pavel Durov, VKontakte is Russia’s social network of choice (and Durov himself is often referred to as Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg). There are more than 370 million users on the site, and the site is valued somewhere north of $3 billion.

pavel durov

Durov’s fate, however serves as a cautionary tale for founders in Russia.

After a series of censorship disputes with the Kremlin (including claims that he was being forced to spy on the accounts of Ukrainian users), Durov sold his shares in the company and fled the country. He now lives a nomadic lifestyle, developing the controversial messaging app Telegram.

Mail.ru Group
Founded in 1998 as an email service, Mail.ru Group has grown to become, perhaps, the biggest player in Russian tech. The company has holdings in social networks, online games, cloud storage, and ecommerce; Mail.ru Group has also made investments in American companies like Facebook (they were an early investor) and Groupon.

Mail.ru offices

Mail.ru is traded on the London Stock Exchange with a current market cap somewhere north of $3.7 billion. Earlier this year, CEO Dmitri Grishin launched a $100 million private equity fund to invest in American and European robotics, AI, and Internet of Things startups.

Yandex
Often called the Google of Russia, Yandex is the country’s most popular search engine. And much like Google, the company offers a slew of products in addition to their core features. Yandex.Taxi is an Uber look-alike that services most major cities; Yandex.Money is an electronic payment service regularly used by a reported 22% of the country; and Yandex.Disk is a cloud storage solution for consumers.

russian tech - yandex offices

And in August, they unveiled a self-driving mini-bus, in partnership with Daimler and Russian truck manufacturer Kamaz.

Ozon
Online retailer Ozon is the largest ecommerce company in Russia. Although it was founded in 1998, Russians did not embrace online purchasing as quickly as their western counterparts, and the marketplace is only now beginning to truly boom. According to CEO Danny Perekalsky, Ozon saw a 20% growth in sales year on year in the first seven months of 2016, although the company has not reached profitability yet.

Kaspersky Labs
While the former Soviet Union has a reputation for black-hat hackers, Kaspersky Labs has proven there’s a market for the good guys as well. The software security group was founded in 1997 and currently operates in nearly 200 countries. But even their anti-virus ways are not above suspicion – in 2015 Bloomberg alleged that Kaspersky has close ties to Russian spies.

ZeptoLab
Gaming giant ZeptoLab is responsible for the Cut the Rope franchise, a massively popular line of mobile and platform games that debuted in 2010. ZeptoLab was founded by twin brothers Efim and Semyon Voinov and has recently branched out into animated movies and television. You can check out their alarmingly green office space in this Business Insider slideshow.

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