What is it with eccentric billionaires? Today Yuri Milner announced that he’d decided to create his very own Nobel prize, but that news pales in comparison to what Australian businessman Clive Palmer is planning. The outlandish executive, who seems to be somewhat of a favored fixture in Australian gossip rags, is rumored to be working on a new Jurassic Park-themed adventure for his already pretty exotic vacation compound, Palmer Coolum Resort.
And of course, what Jurassic Park experience would be complete without an actual living, breathing dinosaur that hasn’t existed for millions of years? If you can’t have your own T-Rex, why even open the damn place?
15 Minutes Into the Future
It’s a question as old as semiconductors: Once you’ve racked up a couple of billion dollars investing in the tech sector, what are you to do with all that cash? Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner–who’s made himself quite a nice little nest egg betting on companies like Facebook and Groupon–has a somewhat novel answer. The New York Times reports that he’s founded his very own Nobel Prize.
The Fundamental Physics Prize will dole out $3 million each to worthy, boundary-pushing thinkers. No experimental proof required, says Mr. Milner:
Some may tsk-tsk the “learn to code” meme, but that hasn’t deterred New York-based Codecademy from sticking to its vision of teaching all of us to code. Today, cofounder Zach Sims announced on the company blog that the startup has raised $10M in series B funding from VC firms Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures, as well as angel investors Yuri Milner and Richard Branson.
Last week, Betabeat met 33-year-old Dmitry Grishin, the so-called “Russian Mark Zuckerberg,” to talk about robots. Or more specifically, to talk about the $25 million investment Mr. Grishin just made to launch Grishin Robotics, a global investment firm–based in New York City!–with the goal of bringing personal robots into every household in the world.
Mr. Grishin is the CEO of Mail.ru, one of the largest Internet companies in Russia, offering services like email, instant messaging, and social networking. After going public on the London Stock Exchange in 2010, Mail.ru currently has a market cap of $7 billion. Mail.ru also happens to have sold a hefty chunk of its Facebook stock in the company’s recent IPO, which might explain why Mr. Grishin decided the time was right to pursue his dream. “I have personal passion for robotics,” Mr. Grishin, a graduate of Moscow State Technical University’s Robotics and Complex Automation program. “I really believe this is a cool, cool area.”
As it happens, talking to Mr. Grishin was not our first conversation about the impending robot revolution in recent weeks.
The Facebookers Will Inherit the Earth
Nobody does nouveau-riche quite like a Russian oligarch. But Alisher Usmanov, the richest man in Russia, might have perfected the form. Although most of the press around Digital Sky Technologies (DST), the valuation-happy venture capital firm, focuses on founder Yuri Milner, Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Mr. Usmanov actually owns an 80 percent stake in the firm. That means that when DST sold Facebook shares worth about $1.7 billion during the company’s IPO, about $1.4 billion of that went to Mr. Usmanov.
And the man hasn’t wasted any time making it rain. In the days since the IPO, Mr. Usmanov, who first made his fortune in mining and metals, has purchased the biggest private jet in Russia, a wide-body Airbus A340-300. Putting Putin to shame, apparently.
Drchrono, the company that is working to get more doctors using easy tools on the iPad and in the cloud, just announced a $2.8 million round of funding led by Yuri Milner. The Russian tech mogul must really like these guys! Mr. Milner invested just over $1.2 million in Drchrono’s seed rounds back in July and August; now he’s recruited Google’s search guru Matt Cutts as an investor. Betabeat interviewed Drchrono’s Daniel Kivatinos back in May, while the company was stilling finishing up the Y Combinator program. “Investors in Silicon Valley are the best you can find. If they see amazing ideas, they will move fast to cultivate that idea but invest if they can,” he told us at the time. Drchrono makes iPad apps for doctors to handle things like billing and patient check-in.
ZocDoc just announced a surprise extra $25 million on top of the $50 million the startup recently raised from Yuri Milner and DST, and the money came from high places–Goldman Sachs is investing directly in ZocDoc. That is to say, not through Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and not through Goldman’s Principal Investment Area, but with money off its own balance sheets, ZocDoc CEO Cyrus Massoumi told Betabeat.
One of ZocDoc’s first angel investors works at Goldman Sachs in a “unique position,” Mr. Massoumi said. Goldman also manages some of ZocDoc’s finances, and can be expected to handle or at least advise them on any acquisitions ZocDoc might make in the future. Plus ZocDoc’s executives have personal friends at the firm, Mr. Massoumi said. (He and co-founder Dr. Oliver Kharraz used to be closer to that world–the two previously worked at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, and continued to wear suits and ties after starting ZocDoc until a friend told them they looked too much “like consultants” to be entrepreneurs, which prompted them to hit the Gap.)
“We’re just really excited,” he said. “There is not a large healthcare institution domestically, perhaps internationally, that does not have a relationship with Goldman Sachs.”
Talks with Goldman started a few weeks ago, in a “mutual conversation,” after the DST investment, Mr. Massoumi said.
TechStars will now offer every accepted company a $100,000 convertible note.The money will come from a new $24 million fund backed by Foundry Group, IA Ventures, Avalon Ventures, DFJ Mercury, SoftBank Capital, SVB Financial Group, RRE Ventures, Right Side Capital Management, TechStars Alumni, and several individuals investors.
When Betabeat first visited General Assembly a few weeks before it opened, co-founder Adam Pritzker told us that the vision was to create an educational space free from the pressures of venture capital so often tied into startup incubators and accelerators.
That has all changed now. Howard Schultz’s Maveron fund led the round, snagging Yuri Milner’s DST Global and Jeff Bezos’s Bezos Expeditions as investors in General Assembly. Alexis Ohanian, Hosain Rahman, and Alex Asseily are also in the round. The new money will allow GA to expand far quicker than they could relying on a $200,000 grant from the city, dues from members and freebies from sponsors like Rackspace and Skype.
New York born, Y Combinator-bred Drchrono, a tablet app for doctors, just added another big name investor to its cap table. Russian billionaire Yuri Milner has invested $650,000.
As Adrianne Jeffries wrote about Drchrono when they raised $675,000 back in July:
Drchrono started in New York almost three years ago with the goal of bringing the same principles of good design that rule companies like Square and Mint to electronic medical records. After a stint in the Rose Tech Ventures incubator, founders Daniel Kivatinos and Michael Nusimow skipped coasts to join Y Combinator. “The alumni of YC is a really powerful network,” Mr. Kivatinos told Betabeat in May, and right he was: The start-up just raised a $675,000 seed round from a dazzling line-up of investors including General Catalyst, Charles River Ventures, 500 Startups, Gmail creator and FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit, Google’s Principal Engineer Matt Cutts, and the Start Fund (made up of investments from Yuri Milner and SV Angel).
Mr. Milner must have liked what he was seeing, because he went back in for a double dip out of his personal account. Drchrono hopes to make an iPad as standard issue in a doctor’s waiting room a beat up clipboard and germ ridden copy of last August’s Cosmo.