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Digital Gold: one of Russia's richest man became a Youtube blogger

BEAM Staff
January 26, 2018

Igor Rybakov, the 117th richest man in Russia with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $900 million, has now become a Youtube blogger. The materials manufacturing mogul had previously also launched an Instagram channel.

Gathering near 300,000 views in his first 24 hours on the platform, Rybakov has shot up to the top of the list of trending videos on Youtube. Focusing on entrepreneurship, motivation and business, his content is produced solely in Russian.

Primarily known as the co-founder of TechnoNicol, a Russian producer of construction materials with a yearly turnover of €1 billion according to one of the company's presentations. Now employing over 5,000 people, Rybakov launched the company back in 1992 together with his business partner, Sergey Kolesnikov. To this day, the two own 50% each of the company, one of the 100 largest private holdings in Russia.

In 2015, Rybakov stepped away from operational control of the company and, together with his wife Ekaterina, started the Rybakov Fund to educate the Russian people about business and investing as well as develop the national economy. To finance this effort, Rybakov invested over €14 million of his own capital with plans to increase this amount by five times and create an endowment for the fund.

"The Russian economy has a tremendous potential. Our goal is to accelerate the development of this economy." Rybakov stated at the launch of the fund. "Together with partners, we help create new production sites, incorporate efficient technologies and create new, highly efficient jobs". 

From 2015 to 2017, Rybakov's net worth has doubled, from $450m to $900m according to Forbes Russia, seeing the materials mogul rise through the ranks of the country's richest entrepreneurs. In his first video, the entrepreneur explained he joined Youtube as a result of many requests from his 83.4K Instagram audience.

"I saw how many influencers shoot motivational videos about how people should live, work, run their companies." he says in his first video. "Who are all these people and why should they have millions of followers and not me. In the end, who has a billion dollars, them or me?"

"I never did anything like this before. I'm not a writer, not a teacher, not a journalist. [...] This channel is about wealth, health, love and everything. We're going to gather here the best and most helpful content." Rybakov goes on to explain in his video. Only a day into his professionally produced Youtube channel with sound effects, edits and graphics, Rybakov picked up near 16,000 followers already.

A physicist by training, Rybakov also made a series of investments in addition to his career at TechnoNicol. In August 2017, he acquired 25% of one of the world's largest scientific archives, CyberLeninka for half a million dollars. Later that month he announced the creation of an international venture capital fund called Larix together with Oscar Hartman.

Larix started with an initial $25 million under management from the partners with plans to then attract outside Limited Partners to increase the size of their fund. Targeting platforms in the food, automobile, logistical, retail, B2B, tech and finance space, Larix's typical check size ranges from $100K to $10 million.

Their portfolio already includes investments in Flaschenpost, a beverage delivery service in Germany, Kluch 10, a co-working network in Moscow, Lori, a logistic services platform in Kenya and others. According to its website, the fund prides itself on closing deals with startups in no more than 3 weeks.

Shortly prior to the end of 2017, Rybakov also came out with a book called Zhazhda (Russian for thirst), which reflects on the mogul's time building his construction material unicorn and his thoughts on building a business.

In his Youtube channel, which debuted with a total of 5 videos, Rybakov goes over his thoughts on why he believes humans are very entrepreneurial, how to make it into the Forbes list, why he plans on not leaving his wealth to his children and a video of one his talks at a conference.

"My conviction is that everyone is born not only capable for business but extremely entrepreneurial." Rybakov details in one of his videos. "It is after, during our life, that we reduce some of our potential, stop developing them and even stop testing."

"For me it was a revelation. When I was 9 years old, I realized for the first time the benefits of being in an entrepreneurial position". As Rybakov goes on to explain, he had organized a group of teenagers to help pick apples for a fee and then drove them to be deposited at a packaging factory where he collected revenue at a profit margin. "The difficulty was that the factory always delayed payments" added Rybakov.

In another one of his starting videos, Rybakov details why he doesn't plan to leave an inheritance to his children. According to him, growing up knowing that his kids would inherit such a large capital would transform them into 'defenders of their own' estates rather than active people. He goes on to say in his video blog that he believes it to be too difficult of a burden to grow up with such expectations and that he wants his kids to be liberated from this.

In one of his videos, Rybakov interviewed Nikolay Uskov, the editor in chief of Forbes Russia, asking him about his achievements in the field and what it takes to succeed in the media space. 

Rybakov's start as a Youtube blogger comes after several high profile personalities of the Russian business elite have started using video blogs as a form of communication with the public. Alisher Usmanov, one of Russia's wealthiest billionaires, famously recorded a video response to Russian politician, Alexey Navalny after he posted a video biography about Usmanov, which the billionaire stated was deeply flawed and full of errors.

Oleg Tinkov, yet another Russian billionaire and founder of Russia's largest banks, also took to the video blogosphere amidst a conflict with one of the members of Nemagia. Some, such as Russian billionaire and Telegram founder, Pavel Durov, have also built a following online although have not yet resorted to video blogging. 

As billionaires and entrepreneurs start to want to better control their audience, image and messaging, a growing trend has emerged for elite members of the business community to start and directly address their followers on social media.