The past month has brought many interesting stories from all across Eastern Europe. If you think I have missed something, or would like to draw my attention to an important story, feel free to ping me in Twitter (@shlema) or by e-mail at email@example.com.
In the Eastern part of Eastern Europe — I mean, in Russia, — the main tech topic of January was definitely its most popular social network Vkontakte, known abroad as VK.com. Founded in 2006, VK today is one of the top 10 social networks in the world, but what’s happening in its top management is similar to struggles of those younger startups, founders and investors of which didn’t agree on what they want from the venture.
“This event was off the charts”
Gary Vaynerchuk was so impressed with TNW Conference 2016 he paused mid-talk to applaud us.
At the end of January, local media learned that VK’s CEO Pavel Durov had sold his 12 percent share in the social network to Ivan Tavrin, who is affiliated with another VK stakeholder, Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov. The deal puts Usmanov in indirect control of 52 percent of the company, while the other 48 percent is owned by United Capital Partners, which acquired the stake in April 2013.
In his post in VK, the “mutinous CEO” Pavel Durov said that he will remain in charge of the social network he’s created, but Russian media have already reported that allegedly Durov will leave VK within a month. The news comes after the social network lost two top managers, brothers Igor and Ilya Perekopskiy, who used to be VK’s financial director and a vice president respectively.
The most likely place to go for Durov, as Russian journalists see it, is his “pet project” instant messenger Telegram. Founded independently from Vkontakte in the US, Telegram is based on a protocol developed by Durov’s brother Nikolay and is claimed to be faster and more secure that most alternatives. According to statistics provided by Pavel Durov to Roem.ru, Telegram has recently reached 1 million unique daily users, while its user base grows by 100,000 per day.
In other news
- Ukrainian startup iblazr, known from its successful Kickstarter campaign for a synchronized flash for smartphones, has changed its name to Conceptor and announced a new product, iPhone case, Lunecase.
- Award-winning Russian startup Displair that has developer a “screenless screen” is on the verge of bankruptcy, top management say they’re looking for a “new strategy.”
- Czech accelerator Startup Yard has signed a partnership with GoodData to give its startups free access to the data intelligence platform.
- Polish social learning startupBrainly has reached 20 million users, launched 12 new language versions and hit 1 million downloads of its mobile apps.
- Russian Internet behemoth Yandex has agreed with Facebook to index public data of users from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, other CIS countries, and Turkey.
- Slovenian startup CubeSensors won the TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield competition.
- Bulgarian startup accelerator Eleven.bg has released its performance figures after 1.5 years in business.
- Amsterdam-based Rockstart Accelerator is actively looking for teams from Central and Eastern Europe for its next batch.
- Russian publisher Mann, Ivanov, and Farber has published an infographic on the biggest Russian Internet companies and richest people in the industry.
- Belarus-developed game World of Tanks has overtaken the famous World of Warcraft by revenues in 2013.
- German VC EarlyBird is raising a $130 million fund to invest in startups in Turkey and CEE.
- UK job search engine Adzuna has launched in Russia with a fully localized version of the website.
- Estonia has published the source code of its Internet-based voting system on GitHub.
Investments and acquisitions
- Russian tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner took part in a $1.2 million funding round for First Opinion, a service that lets users text a doctor any time and get a quick advice.
- Ukrainian-American startup Keen has raised $1.6 million and is about to open an R&D office in Kiev.
- Bulgarian seed fund LauncHub has announced its investment in nine teams from South Eastern Europe: Appticles, GameMatch, Greenpie, Prefer.ly, WP Toolbox, Equafy, Mediately, IQ Friends, and BGMenu.
- Estonian Java productivity tools maker ZeroTurnaround has raised a $2.7 million funding round.
- Ukrainian venture fund TA Venture’s portfolio company Little Eye Labs has been sold to Facebook for $15 million.
- Russian-founded startup HipFlat has raised a $335,000 round to launch a real estate search engine in Thailand.
- Czech travel booking startup Skypicker has raised $500,000 in funding and acquired a competitor, WhichAirline.
- Polish cloud accounting startup Infakt.pl has attracted $1 million in funding from its existing investor PointNine Capital as well as RTA Ventures and a business angel Thomas Modzelewski.
- Ukrainian startup Shoppyy, which offers a mobile app to navigate in shopping malls, has landed a $100,000 funding round.
- Estonian cloud startup Cloutex has closed a $600,000 funding round.
- Latvian Cobook, developer of a Mac app for contact management, has been acquired by US-based FullContact.
- Ukrainian big data startup DataWiz has attracted $100,000 in funding from Russian fund Altair Capital.
- Ukrainian startup Advice Wallet, the product of which is a mobile app-based loyalty program for shops and entertainment venues, has landed a $2 million series A funding round.
- Polish SMM startup Socializer has been acquired by Dentsu Aegis Network.
- France’s carpooling website BlaBlaCar has launched in Russia and Ukraine by acquisition of the similar local service Podorozhniki in a deal allegedly worth $1–3 million.
- Russian venture fund Runa Capital has invested $2 million in a German web hosting startup Cloudpartner.de.
- Russian Internet company Yandex has signed a multi-million deal with MultiShip in order to create a logistics service aggregator.
- Rocket Internet-backed Russian online fashion retailer Lamoda has secured $13.7 million in fundingfrom IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.
- Canadian SMM platform HootSuite has purchased Romanian startup UberVU for $15 to $20 million.
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