|A.K.A.||Yuri Borisovich Milner, Yuri Bentsionovich Milner|
|Birth||11 November 1961, Moscow, Russia|
Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner (Russian: Ю́рий Бори́сович (Бенцио́нович) Ми́льнер; born 11 November 1961) is a Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist. Milner is Russia's most influential tech investor as the founder of investment firms Digital Sky Technologies (DST) now called Mail.ru Group and DST Global. Through DST Global, Milner is an investor in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, Zocdoc, Groupon, JD.com, Planet Labs, Xiaomi, OlaCabs, Alibaba, Habito, AirBnB, WhatsApp, Wish and many others. Milner's personal investments also include a stake in 23andMe
Milner was named one of the World's Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine in March 2017, was listed in the "Titans" category of Time magazine's 2016 Time 100. Foreign Policy magazine included Milner on its "Power List" – an inaugural list of the 500 most powerful people on the planet in May 2013. Milner was included in Bloomberg Markets' 2012 50 Most Influential list. In Fortune's 2010 list of the world's fifty most prominent businessmen, Milner was ranked 46th. That same year Russian business magazine Vedomosti recognized him as "Businessman of the Year".
Early life and education
Born into a Jewish family on 11 November 1961 in Moscow, Yuri Milner was the second child of Russian intellectuals. His father, Bentsion Zakharovitch Milner, was active in the sphere of management and organization. He was Chief Deputy Director at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Betty Iosifovna Milner, Yuri's mother, worked at the capital's state-run virological laboratory for disease control. His older sister, eight years his senior, is an architect.
Milner studied theoretical physics at Moscow State University, graduating in 1985. He went on to work at Lebedev Physical Institute, one of the institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in the same department as the Nobel Prize winner Vitaly Ginzburg. As a doctoral candidate in particle physics, Milner befriended Soviet nuclear physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov. Sakharov's forward thinking would later influence Milner's venture investment strategy.
In 1990, Milner became the first non-émigré from the Soviet Union to go to the United States to receive an MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The press quoted him as saying that he made this decision after "being disappointed in myself as a physicist".
Milner started his business career selling grey market DOS computers in the Soviet Union, which displeased his father. When the national government collapsed, he stopped selling computers to enroll at the Wharton School to earn an MBA.
After graduating, Milner spent the first half of the 1990s at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., as a Russian banking specialist focused on the development of private sector banking. He has described his time at the World Bank as his "lost years", due to watching from afar the privatization of government holdings during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin. In the spring of 1995, Milner was appointed CEO of Alliance-Menatep, an investment brokerage company belonging to then oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In December 1996 Milner worked as Vice President and Head of Investment Management of Menatep Bank. From February 1997 to December 2000, Milner was the deputy chairman and the head of the investment division of Menatep Bank. At the time, the market makers described him as "a well-known professional, who will bring the bank valuable experience in international financial institutions and transactions in the Russian investment market". However, due to the risky investments and excessive share of GKO-OFZ obligations in portfolio, Menatep ceased to fulfill obligations to depositors and went bankrupt. The depositors missed part of their money. The bank management transferred assets to a bank with a similar name and was enriched for further investments.
Russian Internet investor
In 1999, after reading a review by Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker on the prospects for online businesses, Milner decided to create an internet company. He sought funding from his friend from Menatep days Gregory Finger, who at the time led the Russian branch of the US investment fund New Century Holding. The fund agreed to invest $4.5 million with the proviso that Milner and Finger each personally invest $750,000. Milner, Finger, and NCH created a new company, NetBridge. In 2000, Milner became the president of Netbridzh Services Ltd (netBridge) – the company that "created as an Internet incubator and investment fund". Netbridge succeeded in transferring a variety of U.S.-pioneered internet business models to Russia, creating companies including the portal List.ru, online auction site Molotok.ru (based on eBay), free web-hosting Boom.ru (based on GeoCities), and online shop 24×7, using the formula of Amazon.com.
In February 2001, netBridge and Port.ru (which owned Mail.ru) announced a merger. Milner became CEO of the new company named Mail.ru (though the legal name Port.ru was also retained).
From January 2003 to December 2004, Milner was the CEO of "Neftyanoi", owned by Igor Linshits.
In 2005, NCH shifted its focus from Russian Internet projects and Milner founded the investment fund Digital Sky Technologies (DST), becoming its chairman in 2006. A meeting through mutual friends resulted in Alisher Usmanov becoming a shareholder of Mail.ru Group in 2008.
In 2010 Mail.ru Group completed successful initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange with market valuation of $5.6 billion.
In March 2012, Milner stepped down from the role of chairman of Mail.ru and from the board of directors. Dmitry Grishin was elected to the board and appointed as chairman while retaining his CEO position. There were no other changes to management or to the board.
Post Mail.ru Group’s IPO, DST is the sole vehicle for further international investments. The company is now fully independent of Mail.ru Group.
From May 2009 to January 2012 Milner was a member of the Commission on Modernization established by Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President from 2008 to 2012.
International Internet investor
In January 2009, while in Palo Alto, Milner became acquainted with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The meeting led to an agreement on 26 May 2009 under which DST bought a 1.96% stake in Facebook for $200 million.
On 16 September 2010, Digital Sky Technologies (DST) changed its name to "Mail.ru Group". The group's portfolio included Mail.ru, Odnoklassniki.ru, ICQ, a minority stake in the social network VKontakte (Russian Facebook equivalent), online payments service OSMP.ru, e‑Port, as well as some other Russian assets. Milner's commercial interests in Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon were transferred to DST Global. Milner became the CEO of DST Global and the chairman of the board of directors of Mail.ru Group. In November 2010, Mail.ru Group held its offering on the London Stock Exchange. In March 2012, Milner stepped down from the role of chairman of Mail.ru and from the board of directors. Milner focused on international Internet investments.
DST Global became one of the world’s leading technology investors and its portfolio has included some of the world's most prominent internet companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Airbnb, Spotify, Alibaba, and others.
On 29 January 2011, Milner announced that he would invest $150,000 into each of the start‑up program participants selected by the incubator Y Combinator.
On 2 August 2011, DST Global invested $800 million in Twitter.
In September 2011, DST Global together with Silver Lake launched $1.6 billion tender offer for shares in the Alibaba Group.
DST Global invested $125 million in WhatsApp.
In February 2014, it was announced that Milner had led a round of funding for cloud-graphics company, Otoy.
In May 2014, Flipkart raised $210 million in financing round Led by DST Global.
In March 2015, British online luxury fashion company Farfetch said it raised $86 million from investment firm DST Global and existing shareholders, valuing the company at $1 billion.
According to press reports, in April 2015 OlaCabs raised $315 million from DST Global and some existing investors.
In April 2016, online mortgage broker platform Habito launched with backing from Milner, amongst other fintech investors.
In July 2012, Yuri and Julia Milner established the Breakthrough Prize, joined the following year by fellow-founders Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan, Anne Wojcicki and Mark Zuckerberg. The Prize is a set of international awards recognizing three fields of endeavor: Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences and Mathematics. Laureates receive $3 million each in prize money, making the Breakthrough Prizes the largest scientific awards in the world.
- Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
- Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
- Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics
The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences honors advances in understanding living systems and extending human life. Each year, one of the five prizes recognizes work leading to progress against Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics is given annually for accomplishments in fundamental physics broadly defined, including advances in closely related fields with deep connections to physics, and can be shared by any number of winners. The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics is given annually to an individual making significant accomplishments in mathematics. The New Horizons in Physics and New Horizons in Mathematics prizes reward younger researchers who have already produced significant work.
Committees of previous laureates choose the winners from candidates nominated in a process that is online and open to the public. As of March 2017, $174.8m in prize-money has been awarded to 70 individual scientists and four large research teams.
The Prizes are presented annually at a major gala ceremony featuring celebrity presentations, films, comedy and live music from major artists. The last four ceremonies took place at Hangar One (Mountain View, California). They were hosted by Morgan Freeman, Seth MacFarlane and Kevin Spacey. Presenters and performers include Hollywood stars, leaders from Silicon Valley, and world-famous scientists such as Stephen Hawking. Recent events have been co-hosted by Vanity Fair and broadcast on FOX, Discovery Science and the BBC.
The annual celebrations also include full-day symposiums in the three recognized fields. Each year’s symposium is held under the auspices of UC Berkeley, UCSF and Stanford University (with the physical venue alternating between them each year). The program of events includes lectures by Breakthrough laureates and other renowned scientists, as well as moderated discussion panels aimed at the general public. The program is broadcast live on the web.
In July 2015, Milner launched the Breakthrough Initiatives, a major new scientific program investigating the question of life in the Universe. He announced the initiatives at the Royal Society in London, alongside Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Frank Drake, Geoff Marcy and Ann Druyan.
Three initiatives have been announced so far:
- Breakthrough Listen
- Breakthrough Message
- Breakthrough Starshot
The first, Breakthrough Listen, will invest $100 million over 10 years in the most comprehensive and sensitive search ever undertaken for evidence of civilizations beyond Earth. Utilizing the Green Bank, Parkes and Lick observatories, as well as in collaboration with the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China, Listen is searching for radio and laser signals from the nearest million stars, the nearest 100 galaxies, and the plane and center of the Milky Way. All data produced (approximately 10GB per second) is open to the public, and all software developed for the project is open source. The initiative will also use the [email protected] distributed computing project, which Milner described as "Collectively…one of the world’s biggest supercomputers".
The second initiative, Breakthrough Message will be a $1 million annual prize for digital messages representing Earth and humanity, that could be decoded by another civilization. The messages will not, however, be sent into space until a global discussion on the ethics of such a move has taken place.
On April 12, 2016, Milner announced the third project, Breakthrough Starshot, at One World Trade Center alongside Stephen Hawking, Freeman Dyson, Mae Jemison, Ann Druyan, Pete Worden and Avi Loeb. Starshot is a US$100 million program to develop a proof-of-concept light sail spacecraft fleet capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri at 20% the speed of light (60 million m/s or 215 million km/h) taking about 20 years to get there, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival. Pete Worden is the Executive Director of the project and Avi Loeb is chairman of its Advisory Committee.
On April 20, 2017, the Breakthrough Discuss conference was held, during which the results of a year worth of data analysis was revealed. According to the researchers, 692 stars were analyzed, and 11 events that "have been ranked for having the highest significance," though none of them are proof of alien life.
Breakthrough Junior Challenge
In September 2015, the Breakthrough Prize launched the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a science competition for people between thirteen and eighteen years of age, in collaboration with Khan Academy.
Each year, participants in the Challenge are invited to submit a short video on YouTube, explaining an important theory or concept in physics, life sciences or mathematics. The videos then go through a judging process including a peer-to-peer review, scientific evaluation, and a selection committee of top scientists and experts on science communication. However, the video that receives the highest number of likes on Facebook passes directly to the final round of judging.
The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge receives US$250,000 in scholarship funds; the winner’s science teacher receives US$50,000 in prize money; and a new science lab worth US$100,000 is constructed for their school in collaboration with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL).
The Challenge is funded by Yuri and Julia Milner, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, and has been run in partnership with Khan Academy, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Facebook , Google Science Fair, Google for Education, and National Geographic (U.S. TV Channel).
Milner believes that the internet will develop into a "global brain"—which is often described as an intelligent network of individuals and machines—functioning as a nervous system for the planet Earth. He also envisages that the advent of the internet of things and ever increasing use of social media will increase humans' collective intelligence.
In an interview with Vedomosti in 2010, Milner said:
In the past few years I simply do not have time for hobbies. I am even starting to forget what I was fond of. Such as in the past it was reading of literature not related to work.
Milner is married to former high fashion model and contemporary artist Julia Milner (née Bochkova). She is interested in photography: during the 52nd Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art she produced a contribution entitled Click I Hope.
In 2011, Milner bought a $100 million home in Los Altos Hills. The compound spans three plots totaling seven hectares and includes a roughly 25,500-square-foot (2,370 m2) main house and a 5,500-square-foot (510 m2) guest house. The current tax bill is about $304,000 a year. The Wall Street Journal reported the price as $100 million, saying it was the most ever paid for a single-family home in the United States. The property is appraised by the Santa Clara County assessor at $50 million. Yuri lives in Silicon Valley with his family. Milner attends synagogue, but says that he is only minimally religiously observant.
Awards and recognitions
- "The World's 50 Greatest Leaders" – Fortune, March 2017.
- "The Midas List 2017" – Forbes, April 2017.
- "The Wired 100 - 2016" – Wired, August 2016.
- "The 100 Richest Tech Billionaires In The World In 2016 – Forbes, August 2016.
- "Time 100 Most Influential People 2016" – Time, April 2016.
- "The Midas List 2016" – Forbes, April 2016.
- "The Midas China List 2016" – Forbes, April 2016.
- "New Establishment List 2015" – Vanity Fair, September 2015.
- "Wired 100" – Wired, August 2015.
- "The Midas List 2014-" Forbes, April 2015.
- "New Establishment List 2014" – Vanity Fair, September 2014.
- "The Midas List 2013" – Forbes, May 2013.
- "Power Map: 500 most powerful people on the planet" – Foreign Policy, May 2013.
- "Most Influential 50" – Bloomberg Markets, September 2012.
- "The Silicon Valley 100" – Business Insider, February 2012.
- "Top 50 Digital Power Players" – The Hollywood Reporter, January 2012.
- "Businessperson of the Year – Top 50" – Fortune, November 2011.
- "Man of the Year" – GQ (Russian), October 2011.
- "Vanity Fair's New Establishment List 2011" – Vanity Fair, September 2011.
- "Kommersant of the Year" – Kommersant, June 2011.
- "The 100 Most Creative People" – Fast Company, May 2011.
- "The Midas List of Tech's Top Investors" - Forbes, April 2011.
- "World's Billionaires" – Forbes, March 2011.
- "Owners of Virtual Reality List" – Forbes (Russian), February 2011.
- "Businessman of the Year" – Vedomosti, December 2010.
- "The Smartest People in Tech" – Fortune, July 2010.