On the surface, Dmitry Grishin looks like your average middle aged techie.
He rocks a casual button down on top of a pair of jeans and he’s gripping a giant beverage* like his life depends on it.
Grishin has spent his entire life in Russia, building Mail.ru: a technology company that’s a household name in Russia, if not yet in the United States.
It launched it around the time of the dot com boom to become the Yahoo of the Motherland.
Grishin, now its CEO, would prefer you compare it to e Bay rather than Yahoo.
“It’s not like it’s old and you don’t want to use it,” Grishin says defensively. It’s older but nothing has replaced it.” With links to various categories of content, an email service, and an auction site, was one of Russia’s first big domestic web products.
At the time Internet providers charged more for connectivity to international sites like Yahoo, leading Russians to adopt in droves.
The service expanded rapidly, almost as rapidly as the funds from investors disappeared following the dot com bust.
After years of bootstrapping, barely getting by financially while traffic expanded exponentially, started attracting big advertising dollars in 2003.
It has been chugging along healthily ever since, amassing what Grishin estimates is half of the country’s email accounts.
The company is so healthy, in fact, that Mail.ru’s executives decided it should spread to other markets.
You’d think they’d choose to go after a developing nation, where there’s a little less competition, but no. In November 2013, launched its first offerings in the United States under the brand My.com: a “My Chat” messaging service, a “My Mail” email management app much like Mailbox, “My Games,” and a @mobile email client.
Since then it has been growing steadily, at a rate of wary and skeptical, worried about how much information foreign nations might be collecting through Western companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter.