Russia’s DST backs Groupon’s rejection of Google

Alexander Tamas, partner at Digital Sky Technologies (DST), a major investor in Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, and Groupon, defended Groupon’s rejection of Google’s acquisition bid, saying that Groupon could become one of the most important companies on the Internet.

Tamas was speaking at the Le Web conference in Paris. He said that there are very few internet companies that have the potential to define their genre and become great companies. Groupon can achieve much more by staying independent.

DST is a Russian-based investment company largely funded by Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov and run by Yuri Milner. South African emerging market internet media giant Naspers recently acquired a 28.7% stake in DST which has invested heavily in Facebook, social network game creator Zynga and owns the mature instant messaging service, ICQ.

Earlier this year BusinessWeek reported: A Russian Star Rises in Silicon Valley:

Since paying $200 million for 2% of Facebook last May, Milner has increased that stake to nearly 10%—worth perhaps US$2-billion—by purchasing shares from early employees…

On April 19, DST took the majority of a US$135-million financing round for Groupon, a Chicago-based site offering coupons for restaurants and museums. In December, DST was the biggest investor in a group that plowed US$180-million into Zynga.

…Milner has become a major backer of Web 2.0 startups and has another US$1-billion to spend on new investments.

Tamas said that DST looks for companies with a valuation of at least US$1-billion and it only invests in internet companies that have the potential to become the most important in their markets.

He declined to discuss the details of Groupon’s rejection of Google’s offer, reported to be as high as US$6-billion, but he did say that the company’s incredible growth in selling “groupons” discount coupons, justified its decision to stay independent.

He said it was rare to find internet companies of the stature of Groupon. He used the analogy of planets, which shine by reflecting light; and stars, which generate their own light — Groupon is in the star category.



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