|Ostrovok looks to Ctrip for lessons on building uniquely Russian model.|
Monday, 26th March 2012
Source : Yeoh Siew Hoon
On his plate were piled pancakes, eggs, bacon, cereal and bread, I had never seen such an awesome breakfast, but Serge Faguet is clearly going to need all the energy he can summon for the mission he has set for himself.
Over breakfast on the sidelines of ITB Berlin, the young Russian tells me that in five years time – that’s when he will turn 30 – he wants to have built Ostrovok, one of Russia’s new hotel booking sites, into a category-defining company in travel.
“Just as Kaspersky has done with anti-virus software, we want to do with travel,” said Faguet (right), CEO and co-founder of Ostrovok.
Ostrovok.ru has the right pedigree to take it places. Its investors include Erik Blachfold, CEO of Expedia, Gregg Brockway (Hotwire, Tripit), Brad Gerstner of Altimeter Capital and Fritz Demopoulos (Qunar). Previously, it raised $13.6 million from Accel Partners, General Catalyst Partners and a long but impressive list of other investors in July 2011.
It was founded in late 2010 by Faguet and Kirill Makharinsky, both Russian entrepreneurs who studied at Stanford and Oxford Universities, worked at Google and Slide, and founded Silicon Valley companies Tokbox, YouNoodle and Quid, which have raised more than $30 million to date from top-tier funds including Sequoia Capital and Founders Fund.
Faguet had an early start in ecommerce. At 15, he started his own company by trading goods on eBay. That’s when he got hooked. As an undergraduate at Cornell, he worked at Google but didn’t like it. “It’s a big company, lots of politics. That was my only experiment with a corporate job, I didn’t like it.”
He entered Stanford Business School and started Tokbox, a video communications company. After he raised US$4.5 million from Sequoia Capital, he dropped out of Stanford and after he sold the company, he looked around for something else to do. “It was either staying on in Silicon Valley or returning to Russia.”
He chose the latter for four reasons. He wanted a category where he could build something significant rather than “the evolution of a product or something so revolutionary that you don’t know if it will work, for example, Twitter”.
Russia had a large talent pool of technical people who were not as competed over. “Money is easy to raise but good people are hard to hire and if you can’t get the engineers, then it’s tough to start anything significant.”
Third, he wanted some adventure and lastly, “I am Russian”.