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“Corporate Secret”: The most successful young entrepreneurs in Russia in 2015

by Administrator, on Apr 26
Rating of Russian Entrepreneurs under 40
Personal 943873 1920

The article was prepared by Ekaterina Voronova based on material from with the permission of the editor

«SecretMag» has composed a rating of the most successful young entrepreneurs in Russia. Everyone on this list is still under 40; and the average age is 32. Each of them has built the business from scratch – using self-funding or loans. Each of them has Russian citizenship. The main criteria for giving a position in this rating – the value of person’s stocks in a company created by him/her (or, if it is relevant, in several companies).

The leader of the rating – eccentric visionary Pavel Durov, who continues developing his global project messenger Telegram. Internet and IT, in general, are the main sectors, where the majority of these entrepreneurs operate. For some of them, Russia is the main market, but many have already left the country and their projects abroad are even better than in their home country.

All participants of the rating are currently active entrepreneurs. That is why you will not find, for example, Andrey Romanenko, the founder of QIWI, in this list. He still owns 1% of company’s shares, though people got to know that he intends to get rid of them, and currently is not participating in operational management of the company. Those startups, that have not entered the market yet, even though they have received high evaluation in the result of investment rounds, were not considered too. Thus, Ivan Tsybaev, the creator of a promising service Truckloads, which is called ‘Uber for long-distance truck drivers’ is not on the list. In March 2015 Tsybaev’s company Trucker Path rose $1.5-million investment, and in June - $20 million more, but the service is still on the stage of B-testing.

Moreover, this list does not include those entrepreneurs, whose business size can be estimated based on only indirect indicators. The best example here is, the biggest Russian community of cyber-sportsmen. Recently, its representatives told that Alisher Usmanov’s USM Holdings is going to invest $100 million in the development of the project. USM Holdings confirms this information, though does not share the details. The co-founder of, Anton Cherepennikov refused to give any additional information.

The main criteria for defining the position in the rating is the value of the entrepreneur’s share in the company. To get this information open sources were used: databases, entrepreneurs themselves, their competitors, as well as investors and analysts. If the companies of participants have recently raised investments, they were assessed according to the closed deals. In other cases, multipliers were used for public and companies which have already been assessed. Thus, the information given below is the result of experts’ and journalists’ assessments. This data is not official.

1. Pavel Durov - 31 years – Telegram - $ 1 bln

A year ago Telegram was used by 35 mln users every month, in summer 2015 the messenger had 60 mln subscribers per month. If the growth rate has remained the same (in May Pavel Durov claimed that every day 220 000 new users join Telegram), there should be 100 mln people actively using the service.

Durov promises that Telegram will always be free for users, but soon the service will get money from other developers.

Durov’s private life remains secret. In his Instagram you can see images of New York, San Francisco, European capitals, Finnish lakes, pines in Karelia. As before, Durov often makes public statements. For example, he believes that the responsibility for terroristic attacks in Paris lie not only on Islamic State (terroristic organisation banned in Russia), but also on French government. After the State Duma suggested restricting the access to Telegram for Russian citizens (according to their sources, the messenger was used by terrorists from Islamic State, organisation, prohibited in Russia), Durov recommended them “banning words”.

Answering the questions of “Secret”, Durov evaluated that probable value of the project is $3-4 bln, in particular referring to the offers that he has received. At the same time the entrepreneur noted that in the nearest future Telegram is not planning to raise investment. Read more about the evaluation of the Telegram in the article “What is the value of Pavel Durov’s Telegram” (the article is in Russian – it can be translated upon your request).

2. Ivan Tavrin  - 39 years - UTV Holding, USM Holdings - $ 400 mln

In 1996 the student of MGIMO’s International Law Faculty (Moscow State Institute for International Relations) Ivan Tavrin co-founded advertising agency “Construct” together with his friend. 20 years later 39-year-old entrepreneur manages part of Alisher Usmanov’s (the richest businessperson in Russia) assets as his partner.

Advertising agency “Construct” was successfully developing. By 2000 the revenue of the agency exceeded $10 bln per year. In 2001 Tavrin registered a new company, “Regional Media Group” (RMG) and started working in the field of mergers, acquisitions and sales of media assets – the activities he is most famous for.

By 2005, RMG owned 8 regional television broadcasting stations. 5 years later Tavrin and his partners formed holding “Media-1” – big enough for the entrepreneur to start negotiations about merger with “AF Media Holding” (which owned “Mus-TV” and 7TV, for example) of Alisher Usmanov. Tavrin and his partners got 50% of shares in the merger company, UTV Holding.

Now, being the shareholder and staying on the position of UTV Holding’s Board of Directors’ Chairman, Tavrin is also Kommersant’s Board of Directors’ Chairman and Megafon’s CEO.

3, 4. Semyon and Efym Voynov - 33 years old – Zeptolab - $250 mln each

Game Cut The Rope, created by brothers Voynov’s Zeptolab, continues conquering the world. This year the game entered promising Indian market. It is Indian market that “will soon become the biggest in the world”, believes Misha Lyalin, Zeptolab’s CEO.

Franchise was bought by the biggest local developer of mobile games “Nazara Games”. The game is expected to be downloaded at least 50 mln times in the next few years by the citizens of Indian subcontinent. It has already been downloaded 750 mln times since its launch 5 years ago. 50 mln people all over the world play Cut The Rope every month.

The main character of the game, monster Am Nyam, has too little space on the screens of mobile devices – the series featuring this hero there have already been released. Full-length cartoon will be released in 2016.

Despite Zeptolab’s active development, Efym and Semyon Voynov prefer to keep a low profile, avoid communicating with journalists and focus primarily on work.


5. Pyotr Kutis - 38 years – OneTwoTrip - $130 mln

Agency OneTwoTrip is one of the leaders in Russian market of airline ticket online sales. In 2014 Internet ticket sales and hotel bookings were $11,2 bln, and analysts forecast 20-25% annual growth. Pyotr Kutis is not happy with the market though. He believes that there are many small and unreliable players that try to sell tickets, giving no guarantees to the buyers. It ruins the reputation of big companies that can be trusted (like OneTwoTrip, according to Kutis). Moreover, those small companies take the share of the giants. That is why, according Kutis, many activities should be prohibited. For example, giving discounts and settlement lag between the agency and airline for more than three days. 

Kutis does not disclose information about his company’s financial performance and ownership structure, but he always says that, unlike its competitors, OneTwoTrip gets revenue. In 2012, the service, being assessed at $70-100 mln, raised $25 mln: investment company Phenomen Ventures invested $9 mln, Atomico, created by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström, contributed another $16 mln.

In spring 2015, according to Kommersant, OneTwoTrip received $8 mln from Golman Sachs. In the third quarter, OneTwoTrip has supposedly received $4 mln more from the fund Vostok New Ventures – information about this investment is disclosed in the reports of the fund. However, Kutis keeps silent and does not answer questions about closed deals.

6. Alexandr Agapitov - 31 years - Xsolla, Slemma - $125 mln

Ten years ago Alexandr Agapov dropped out of Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics in Perm State University – his work required too much time: the student wrote the algorithm to analyse bookmakers’ websites, that could make winning bids; and launched games payment online service.

His first service was not a success, but the second with the course of time has developed into the company Xsolla with headquarters in California, where Agapitov moved with his family in 2009, and offices all over the world (one of them is still in Perm).

Xsolla sustains around 700 payment systems – it is used by such giants of gaming industry, as Valve and Wargaming. In August Xsolla said about creation of its own “academy” – service that will allow honoured cybersports men to give paid video lessons.

In his interview to “Secret” Alexander Agapitov claimed that in 2015 year he declined the offer of “a famous company trading at NASDAQ” to acquire Xsolla for $150 mln – it represents six annual revenues of the service.

Last year Agapitov and Alexey Udin, top manager of Perm company Prognoz, launched a new project – Capsidea, crowdsourcing platform to analyse and visualize Big Data. The launch was not successful. During the year Capsidea attracted only four developers and did not interest investors. In May 2015, the project was re-launched with new concept and new name Slemma.

7. Eduard Iloyan - 32 years - Yellow, Black and White - $113 mln

Eduard Iloyan’s background is common for Russian tele- and cinema producers of a new wave – he is ex-KVN (Club of the Funny and Inventive) participant, like his recent partners Vitaly Shlyappo and Alexey Trocuk. They launched Yellow, Black and White in 2006. In 2007 they started producing television content, prepared humorous show for Kazakh television.

Starting from 2008 Yellow, Black and White has been doing entertaining shows and series for STS and by 2015 has become the channel’s main provider. The most popular shows are “Uralskiye pelmeni”, “6 cadres”, as well as very successful and super-expensive (for the Russian standards) series “The Kitchen”. The latest project lasted 5 seasons. In 2014 the full-length movie “The Kitchen in Paris” was released – with the budget of $2,3 mln, its grosses came to $14 mln. CBS Studio got the rights to adapt the series abroad.

In 2015 because of advertising inflow decrease, many Russian channels reduced the amount of prime hours, and Iloyan’s company has tried to strengthen its position in the cinema industry. In 2015 Yellow, Black and White released four new movies. At least two movies are planned to be released in 2016. Besides, Iloyan and his partners, together with STS Media, try to earn on licenses – to produce liquid soaps and kitchen appliances under the brand name of “The Kitchen”. 

8. Ilya Popov - 37 years - Riki Group - $90 mln

Ilya Popov is the main beneficiary of the company “Producers center Riki” and company Smeshariki Gmbh. The former deals with licenses to produce goods with images of cartoon Smeshariki’s characters; the later owns the right for trademarks. Popov always wears extravagant clothes: shirts of unusual fit, high cowboy shoes, fringed trousers – and for the sake of good picture he is ready to hold the ears of one-meter round hare Krosha, or hug coquettish pig Nusha. The turnover of toys, exercise books and other goods – around 5000 different items – is assessed to be around hundreds of millions dollars. The interest from the licensed goods sales is the main revenue of the company, which includes studios, editing agency, company creating online games and other divisions. Besides Smeshariki, the most successful and expensive brand of the company, Riki owns popular brand Fiksiki, that has already been getting revenue; and Malyshariki, that is planned to be launched in the next few years.

Characters from Smeshariki are known not only in Russia – they have appeared on French, British and other European channels under the name Kikoroki. In China the cartoon is adapted for the local audience – there are around 10 people working in law and marketing departments; and Popov is planning to set production of new series in China itself. The main growth opportunities for the producers center Riki are the new markets for Smeshariki and Fiksiki and new media franchises about new charming characters for Russia and CIS (with a view to entering international arena). You can read more details in the interview with Ilya Popov (the interview is in Russian – it can be translated upon your request).

9. Konstantin Kalinov - 38 years - Aviasales - $58 mln

Former policeman Konstantin Kalinov created a meta-search engine for airline tickets in 2007. At that time, the entrepreneur was not a beginner in the Internet industry – he owned a hosting provider UPL Telecom, that had developed from a website with erotic photos. At the beginning Aviasales became the source of a small, but stable income for Kalinov, but after seeing the interest of users, he decided to develop the service. With the course of time, Aviasales has become one of the market leaders, and in 2014 it has attracted $10-million investment, that the company spends on its international expansion.

Kalinov has been famous as a tough person and he has earned many enemies quite fast. One of the most famous stories of this year – the Internet announcement of the entrepreneur in the search for marketing specialist. He posted the job announcement on Facebook and asked the applicants to send the story about themselves to his email, but he did not give his email address. Further, he started posting screenshots of unsuccessful candidates and was rude with those who commented the style of his post. The publication lead to appearance of numerous articles from professional media, and the founder of “Ostrovok” and Kalinov’s long-time opponent Sergey Fague has even created a petition on to close the service. The hired Marketing director Nikolay Shuklin was fired 2 months later.

Crisis, restricting many Russians from regular trips and problems of Russian airline industry, negatively affects Aviasales’, as well as other players’, performance. “In the past the amount of international and domestic flights were equal, nowadays we have 70% domestic flights, which affects the average price paid for ticket”, - said Kalinov to “Secret”.

10. Maksim Belonogov - 35 years - “Maksim” - $56 mln

Kurgan company “Maksim” is the taxi-ordering service – widely known in regions. Muscovites know better its competitors – Yandex.Taxi, Uber and Gett. Maxim Belonogov, founder of “Maksim”, started working when he studied at school: was an agitator for Liberal Democrats Party of Russia (LDPR), worked as a driver in a local mortuary.

In 2004 he created an operations control service for taxi-ordering, one year later he launched an application for the drivers, based on Java platform (there were no smartphones at that time). Now the company is operating in 89 cities in Russia and is entering European markets.

The whole story of “Maksim” is a fight. In Nizhny Tagil the car of division manager was burnt, in other cities it was difficult to open offices. This year the authorities on Belgorod region prohibited the drivers to work with Belonogov, because the service has no documents to provide transportation services. It was the first case in Russia, when the operation of taxi aggregator was officially limited.

“Maksim” has been constantly sued and usually wins cases.

11. Nikolay Evdokimov - 33 years - Pult Group, AppIn Top - $53 mln

Nikolay started his activities in search engine optimization (SEO) during his studies at Faculty of Energetics in Moscow State Technical University of Bauman. He got big success in 2008 – soon after its launch, his service Seopult became a leader in the SEO market and started bringing $500 000 per month.

Further, the revenue has been doubling on an annual basis. In 2013, last year, when Pult Group (the name of the holding that combines assets of Evdokimov and other shareholders at Seopult) was disclosing its financial indicators, the revenue increased by more than 80% and exceeded $50 mln.

Last year Seopult seemed to reach its ceiling – its growth has slowed down. According to the latest data, the revenue of the service was around $53 mln adapted to the pre-crisis exchange rate, which means $30 mln with the current level of exchange rate.

Another project of Evdokimov – automatized service of mobile applications promotion AppInTop - is developing faster. It was launched in May 2014 and a few months later raised $6-million investment from venture fund Run Capital of Andrey Romanenko.

12. Anton Belov - 32 years – Mobirate - $42 mln

Anton Belov still does not seem like an owner of the company with the value in dozens of millions dollars. In his pictures on Social networking websites you can find him in a hat with the sign “sailor”, or in fore-and-aft cap with Che Guevara image, in the costume of Egyptian pharaoh. However, business of entrepreneur from Ulyanovsk, though it is connected with games, is serious enough. During 12 years company Mobirate, created by Belov (after his father’s advice), became a significant player in Russia, as well as abroad.

Success did not come at once. In 2003 it was difficult to promote games for pocket computers. The procedure of games installation, first on pocket computers, later on mobile phones and smartphones was time-consuming. Few users were ready to pay for the service. For six years company saw no profits, but in 2009 it re-positioned and started focusing on games for iOS – and already the first game, parking simulator Parking Mania, was downloaded by more than 20 mln users. Since then Belov’s company has released more than a dozen of hits, which are available not only in the App Store, but also on Google Play and Windows Store.   

Answering the questions of “Secret”, Belov has claimed that in 2015 the revenue of Mobirate doubled, but he refused to give exact figures. He believes that the world launch of Rovercraft became the main driver. Mobirate is planning three new launches in the first half of 2016.

13. Ruslan Fazlyev - 35 years – Ecwid - $35 mln

Ruslan Fazlyev is not afraid for his business – the economic situation in Russia has not damaged it. The constructor of online stores Ecwid is from Ulyanovsk, but the majority of his clients are from the USA, that is why his revenue is in dollars. This year the company has signed several strategic partnerships – with mobile payment system Square (for the sellers to use it for their sales) and auction eBay (for the sellers to automatically position their goods).

“I had a girlfriend in Ulyanovsk, she has a rich father and she was not going to leave the town, - recalls Fazlyev in one of the interviews. – I had to become rich, not leaving Ulyanovsk. I left University and started my own company”. In 2011 venture fund Runa Capital invested $1.5 mln in Ecwid. The fund’s founder Sergey Belousov claimed that the capitalization of the company would reach $100 mln in a few years.

Last spring Fazlyev raised $5 mln more. Now Ecwid has more than 600 000 users in 175 countries, offices in San-Diego, Ulyanovsk and Samara. “The year passed under the slogan “Improvements are better than innovations”, - told Fazlyev to ‘Secret’. – We launched 24h support call center in the USA. We started providing technical support service in Russian – call center as well. We have included prices in rubles, so that the clients do not get scared that will be involved into the changes of currency rates. No Skolkovo, neither smoothie, to be brief. Real products for real people”.

Fazlyev has shares in several more companies. There are developer of online stores “Kreativniye Technologii” (X-cart) and publisher “Buffernaya Buhta” ( among them.

14. Fyodor Ovchinnikov - 34 years - Dodo Pizza - $20,1 mln

The founder of “Dodo Pizza”, Fyodor Ovchinnikov became popular when he decided to deliver pizza, using drones. However, it was only an advertising campaign. But the video with the drone was noticed even by foreign media.

Last year quite renowned venture funds wanted to invest in “Dodo Pizza”, however, Fyodor Ovchinnikov refused all the offers. Instead of that the company started raising money of small private investors. Today more than 130 people support the business, in total they have invested 116 mln roubles. Thus, value of “Dodo Pizza” was estimated as $28.8 mln. In 2015 the revenue of this chain exceeded 1 bln roubles.

Recently “Dodo Pizza” has been experimenting with new formats – for example, in Syktyvkar, the first “Dodo Pizza & Coffee”, where you can buy not only the whole pizza, but also by pieces, was opened. Next year Ovchinnikov is planning to expand into Moscow, USA and China. In May his team started active work on the expansion into a small city Oxford in Mississippi state – he said that to “Secret”.


15, 16. Evgeny Demin, Elena Belous – 38 years – Splat, Edem - $20 mln each

The electricity and telephone were switched off at their home because they were not paid, the quarrels in the family could have led to divorce – in the beginning of 2000s not everything was going well for the couple of Evgeny Demin and Elena Belous. Their company “Conversiya”, dealing with distribution and selling food supplements, had hard times. It was necessary to diversify and the couple decided to focus on product of mass market – toothpaste. In 2002 Demin and Belous rented a plant in Moscow region and launched production.

Sales were not going well in the beginning. The pharmacies and shops refused to take unknown  product, that cost more that products of well-known brands. Evgeny Demin personally went to all outlets near their office at metro station Paveleckaya, talked to small pharmacies. Promotion took several years, one of the most successful marketing campaigns were the letters to the clients that can be found inside the package of Splat products. Demin has been writing them every month since 2004. Now Splat holds 14% of Russian market of tooth care products. Company’s products are being sold in 40 more countries around the world (in 2015 Splat opened office in China), and sales outside Russia represent already 17% of all revenue.

Evgeny Demin devotes almost all his time to Splat, and his wife (she is a Business Development Manager in Splat) Elena Belous has been spending more time on her new family business since the end of 2014 – she is running the brand of wedding dresses Edem.

This rating was prepared by Nikolay Kononov, Zlata Onufrieva, irina Postnikova, Polina Potapove, Anna Savina, Viktoria Charochkina, Darya Cherkydinove and Nastya Chernikova.

Illustrations: Natalya Osipova


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