Updated at 8:30 p.m.: to correct that DST has no funding from the Russian government.
As reported earlier, Facebook is taking a $200 million round of funding from Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian investment company. While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call Tuesday morning that Facebook revenue numbers were up, that the company was growing, and that Facebook was, "on track to creating a nice, self-sustaining business," he explained that at Facebook, "we're open to interesting offers."
With many companies wanting to invest in Facebook, what made the DST offer so interesting?
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told me that Facebook was "not actively seeking investments." DST input will be key to Facebook's Eastern European business growth, though. "This is an investment with a strategic partner. We're excited for the learnings," she said.
But a source familiar with DST laid it out for me a bit differently: if Facebook wants to be successful in Russia, DST can bring a lot to the table besides knowledge. DST is close to the government there, the source said, and while outright involvement (or obstruction) from the Russian government is highly unlikely, if Facebook wants its business to go more smoothly, DST can help.
For example, should Facebook want to hire Russians, a connected investor like DST could help. DST influence could be even more important if Facebook wanted to acquire companies in the region.
DST's Alexander Tamas told me his company is private and does not have many interactions with the government. There is no government funding in DST. Still, our source says that DST's connections to the government, subtle though they may be, are important because the Russian market is not friendly to outsiders. "It's a market where you want a partner," I was told.
DST's investment gives it no power over Facebook in the United States, and reportedly no control of the company nor access to U.S. customer data. But through this arrangement, Facebook will likely have an easier time growing its market share in Russia, of obvious benefit to its new investor. … Read more