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I'm Russian and have experience raising money both in Russia and UK, so hopefully can add a useful perspective.

Whilst the above is true in general, it's not fair to pick on Russia.

It's fairly natural that a vast concentration of wealth in the hands of few and inexperienced (by historial standards) business men leads to ego-driven risk-taking spending. It happens in every country, there are always folks who inherit a fortune and blow it on some business venture within 6 months. You just don't hear about them in the news cause the amounts are too small. Russian oligarchs inherited the fortune of USSR, Arabs inherited oil fields, etc, which make their examples more news-worthy. It's like a high stakes poker game.

There are American VCs that make outlandish investments. There are British banks that invest money in Dubai. And there are Russians that invest in American tech. These are all high-risk high-reward type gambles.

It's only natural that an inexperienced foreign investor pays a premium over a well-known Silicon Valley VC firm: you aren't getting advice or guidance or connections, just cash ("dumb-money"). Similarly a foreign investor often pays a premium when investing in Russia, or an inexperienced investor ends up paying a premium in the form of cash or bad terms.

And I don't agree that there's nothing to learn from Zynga in all this. There's a key lesson: that best valuations don't live in Silicon Valley. Raising money is often a lot easier and cheaper in Russia or the Middle East. I can only congratulate Zynga on getting a great valuation and not being afraid to take the road less traveled, and having $180M to spend on either their business or themselves. After all FarmVille isn't exactly out to change the world now is it? :)

Entrepreneus often forget that fund-raising is a really important skill in building a business (if not the most). I confess - it's something I didn't get when I started out. This is not what US investors want you to think (so they can focus on great deals) - the Silicon Valley hype is all about great tech and ideas. But ideas aren't worth much. And great technical people can be taken on board if there's sufficient capital available. Cash can make or break a business unlike anything else. With $180M you can dream up quite a few interesting ventures, you don't need to invest it into your current idea (eg FarmVille). Maybe Zynga will use the money to build the next Facebook or Google (yeah right).

Having said that, I am aware that Putin has an agenda to promote Russia as the leader in technology. Perhaps investments by DST are a part of that agenda. But it's only natural that globalization brings with it new sources of capital, and that's only good news for startups.

PS It's not money laundering (as some have suggested) cause Russian banks offer that service for 15% (you can wire cash to any offshore account from central Moscow).




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