21 years later…
Yesterday, something truly remarkable took place: Ozon carried out its IPO on NASDAQ and the Moscow Exchange. This is an important milestone in the company’s history, and today we want to thank everyone who made this success possible. In the 21 years since the fund first invested in Ozon, the company has grown from a small online bookstore with great ambitions to a leading player on the e-commerce market in Russia. This was possible above all thanks to our wonderful colleagues and friends, who poured themselves into this unique success story.
ALEXANDER EGOROV. In 1998, Reksoft – a company founded by Alexander and his partners – launched Ozon as an advertising platform to sell e-commerce software. As it turned out, not many buyers were interested, so Ozon started to develop as an online store. In the fall of 1999, the investment was agreed upon and exactly 21 years ago – in December 1999 – Baring Vostok made its first investment in Ozon. This was the fund’s first venture investment, and while the team did not fully understand what it was doing at the time, the fund bought a controlling stake right away. Later, the wise Alfred Fenaughty at Yandex explained to us in plain language that investors were not the ones who create the business and therefore should not buy a controlling stake.
LEONID BOGUSLAVSKY AND CHARLES RYAN. After buying its stake in Ozon, the fund launched Ru-Net Holdings and transferred its share in Ozon into the company. Together with close friends and co-investors, the fund started a rather long journey of building and continuously financing the business.
GENNADY SPIRIN AND VLADIMIR DOLGOV. These two former Ozon CEOs were always solving some of the most complex issues involved in building a business despite a constant lack of finances. Back then, Ozon was like whack-a-mole: new surprises kept jumping up from different places and required urgent solutions. IT, logistics, delivery, financing, procurement – it was not a dull time, to say the least.
PASCAL CLEMENT. Following the dotcom crash, many investors lost interest in e-commerce, so it became increasingly more difficult to raise funding. Moreover, Baring Vostok found itself as the controlling shareholder in a venture project that was making significant losses. One book cost on average $1, but its delivery cost $10. Even the most optimistic forecasts did not see the company becoming profitable. For a certain period of time, Ozon combined with another of the fund’s portfolio companies – PPE Group, a leader in remote trade, launched by Pascal Clement. Remote book sales via PPE helped Ozon survive in a time when e-commerce was still not economically viable.
BERNARD LUKEY. Bernard oversaw marketing at Ozon and Yandex at the same time and helped launch both companies’ first TV adverts in May 2000. In 2005, Bernard became the head of Ozon and made the impossible happen. Orders started to be delivered and, as we joked back then, they were sometimes even delivered on time. Bernard is one of the key people in Ozon’s history who successfully led the company through a number of crises and never doubted its potential for success.
GIUSEPPE ZOCCO AND INDEX VENTURES. In 2006, Baring Vostok sold its share in PPE and got Ozon back. The company still had tremendous growth potential as the Russian e-commerce market was still in its infancy and there were no other players. In 2007, Ozon raised funds from Index Ventures, a wonderful European fund with unique expertise in global e-commerce. Ozon turned out to be an extremely successful and long-term investment for Index Ventures, which remains a shareholder in the company today.
MAELLE GAVET AND DANNY PEREKALSKY. Maelle and Danny were head of Ozon consecutively from 2009-2017. Maelle helped raise funding in 2011 and 2014 and actively developed the company and its growth strategy. Danny brought a very important focus on customers to Ozon, as well as optimism and team spirit.
VLADIMIR EVTUSHENKOV, ALEXEY KATKOV, VLADIMIR CHIRAKHOV, AND THE TEAM AT SISTEMA AND MTS. In 2014, amid complete uncertainty, Ozon raised much-needed funding from Sistema and MTS. Not only did we receive financing and acquire a very reliable partner, but the company also gained a new momentum for growth, a focus on leadership and tremendous experience in developing Russian businesses.
ALEXANDER SHULGIN AND HIS TEAM. Alexander was the first external manager from Yandex and was responsible for much of the company’s success today. In 2017, as he was leaving Yandex, only Ozon was able to offer him a comparable scale of potential and tough challenges. Over three years, thanks to his leadership and vision, Ozon has completely transformed. Most importantly, Ozon has a super strong team capable of solving the most ambitious tasks today.
TATYANA AND VLADISLAV BAKALCHUK. Wildberries is Russia’s e-commerce leader today. Ozon has been proud to be its competitor over recent years. Any business should consider itself lucky to have a strong and professional competitor. We have learned a lot from Wildberries and together we are building the future of e-commerce in Russia.
THE BARING VOSTOK TEAM AND INVESTORS have demonstrated tremendous patience and belief that endless investment and shifting deadlines in an attempt to become break-even would ultimately not be in vain. And indeed, it was not in vain!
Ozon has seen numerous ups and downs and often found itself in challenging situations, but there was always a solution. The challenges posed by 2020 have been a major test for us all, but at the same time they have accelerated the transition of customers into the online segment. Ozon is a resilient company that has always been capable of turning challenges into opportunities and reaping benefits from obstacles. Ozon has truly weathered the storms, and we believe it will continue to navigate the waters to grow rapidly and successfully.
We are extremely grateful to all these people, as well as to former and current employees, patient and demanding customers, couriers delivering orders come rain or shine and during quarantine, and of course to Ozon’s partners, for the great success, lessons learned, support in the most challenging times, as well as joy from our shared achievements.
21 years later, Ozon is still a company with serious potential and the e-commerce market is still small and on track to grow. The best is yet to come!