SOCIAL DISCOVERIES IN RIGA

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Dmitry Volkov started his career as an actor and 20 years ago got engaged in a venture of starting a business. Today the annual turnover of his Internet holding company exceeds 200 mln USD, apart from that the portals and services in the company portfolio serve more than 500 mln customers all over the world. What is Dmitry doing in Riga?

When an acquaintance from the USA offered Dmitry Volkov to participate in the development of an Internet site, he was starring in a blockbuster To Survive and did not have any idea about a business at the back of his mind. He did not have any skills either. To tell the truth, it was an absolute venture. Having assembled a group of student programmers Dmitry set down to the project. The first project took more time than expected, however it provided for a successful start.

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The venture was profitable and in two years the company moved from their basement premises to a relatively good office in the centre of Moscow. Self-made software products appeared which they sold both in Russia and abroad.

The business was developing very successfully. Thus, one of the company products was an electronic payment processing technology. Based on the technology a new software product was developed – Pay Online, a Pay Pal competitor. It allowed for mutually connecting Visa and Master Card payment systems, bank acquirers and online shops. Pay Online quickly became one of the biggest players in the payment market of Eastern Europe working with Austrian Raiffeisen Bank, for example.

Uniqueness of the conference room – hanging chairs that let people relax and reduce stress

Along with the success new ideas appeared as well as the wish to develop ever new projects and Dmitry realized he needed partners – best of all foreign ones. Thus together with Ian Kravetz and Matthew Zhang they created an international investment fund. The aim of the fund was to develop Internet projects in the social discovery area which gave the name to the fund – Social Discovery Ventures (SDVentures). The area of business very well characterizes their activities. It is the social technology industry in the Internet. Social discoveries let everyone find new acquaintances and contacts with people in different countries with the goal to meet, travel, learn languages, play online games, get acquainted and enjoy friendships. SDVentures created matching analysis technologies for dating sites as well as messaging and video chat applications. Some of these technologies are used in the biggest dating sites and social networks. An important period in the development of this direction was the acquisition of the Dating.com business in 2014.

Up to this day SDVentures has kept both business directions: the development of its own projects and direct investments in foreign projects whose business is in line with the SDVentures strategy. Currently the portfolio of the holding includes such projects as language acquisition, for example, LiguaLeo, the professional association (Shocase) of social networks (Moonit, StreetLife), music application Shazam, the site for searching travel companions TripTogether, dating sites Anastasia.com, Dating.com and others – all together more than 50 projects.

 

Why Riga?

As it is well-known, in the modern world the location of the company head-office, depending on the field, plays an increasingly smaller role. This particularly concerns Internet companies and investors. Even the biggest social networks and funds limit themselves to a head office and use other countries just for optimizing their costs, marketing and expansion of their business. SDVentures already has offices in the biggest cities of the world and has opened its office in Riga this year. Why?

Inspired by the Dome Cathedral, an organ wall was created in the office

FullSizeRender-(2)The operation of the holding is mainly targeted at the American and Asian markets therefore their biggest offices are located in New York and Hong Kong. Their main functions are business development, searching for interesting investment projects in the priority business area for the holding – Social Discovery. Latvian and Baltic markets present interest for the holding firstly in terms of business development – partnerships with banks and processing companies. “In Riga we are opening an office for managing the already existing and intended projects of the holding in the country. “They are mainly partnership projects with such companies and banks as Rietumu banka, Pasta Banka, BIB,” Dmitry Volkov explains. At the moment the office employs 16 people. The staff might increase depending on the development of the projects of the holding in Latvia and other Baltic States. However, that is not all. The corporate philosophy of SDVentures that distinguishes it from other IT companies is embodied in the concept Art in Technology. When art & technology collide. Its essence is hidden in the connection between the modern art and innovative technologies and they facilitate each other’s development. As in other countries, the design concept of Riga office represents this philosophy. When designing their offices SDVentures foster the appreciation of modern art values among their employees by helping them discover the values and use them as inspiration for their work. Moreover, the Old Town of Riga is of great help here. The building that was constructed more than a hundred years ago, in 1890, has a very sophisticated layout – in each floor there are very many curves and uneven surfaces. When searching for the hidden architectural heritage plaster was removed from the walls. All the discovered windows, doors and other components of the construction organically fitted into the office design.

The office visitors are welcomed by an organ wall, the prolonged shape of which symbolizes the flowing sound of the instrument. In the lobby there is a high ceiling, the floor is laid with aged terracotta tiles traditional for Riga thus making steps hollow and together with the subdued illumination bringing medieval character into the atmosphere of the premises.

From the lobby the visitor enters a large and light space – manager offices and an open plan hall for the staff.

 

SDVentures business interests

SDVentures is also interested in Riga as a source of new venture capital projects. It is not a coincidence that one of the company’s partners – fund 500 hundred startups arrived in Riga in November right after the official opening of the SDVentures office. The company management hope to find many promising startups in the Baltic States which they will later be able to develop both in the European and Asian markets. As Asia is closed for such giants as Google and Facebook , SDVentures has a big potential to develop its products in the Asian market, which might in future compete with these Internet giants. One of such projects already exists – the dating site Sumtu.

Undoubtedly, Riga has things to offer. Everybody remembers how Vitaly Rubstein successfully created the dating site Ask.fm. It seems now he will have to face a competitor in the fight for new ideas.

If there is a respectful idea and contacts, they will definitely be able to take the niche in the Asian market, let alone Europe. The Social Discovery area is a new thing in Europe. We can assume that interest about this niche and cooperation with the non-standard international player SDVentures will also appear among the local financiers.