The SXSW Interactive Featured Session Feature: Dmitry Grishin of Grishin Robotics

Written by Hugh Forrest | February 10, 2014

Dimitry Grishin talks about consumer robots on March 8 at SXSW

Featured Sessions at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival showcase some of the world’s most innovative thinkers. Today’s installment of the Featured Session Feature focuses on Dmitry Grishin of Grishin Robotics. At SXSW, catch his session “Consumer Robots Everywhere: The Next Big Thing” session on Saturday afternoon, March 8 at 12:30 pm.

Once a big player in the fledgling Russian Internet scene, Dmitry Grishin now hopes to make the same impact in the field of robotics. He is perhaps best known as the co-founder of Mail.ru, a Russian Internet corporation that regularly reaches approximately 86% of all Russian Internet users. Grishin also contributed heavily to “Runet”, Russia’s Internet presence, in its early days. He is currently the Chairman and CEO of Mail.ru and the founder of the investment company Grishin Robotics.

Formerly known as Port.ru, Mail.ru has one of the largest reaches of any site in the largest European Internet market, measured by number of users. Mail.Ru Group offers a variety of communication products and services, including email, social networks, instant messaging, search, e-commerce, and gaming. In 2005, Mail.ru had over 30 million users with over 25 million emails sent each day. In 2010, Mail.ru’s IPO was valued at more than $5 billion. As of 2014, Mail.ru has a global Alexa rank of 37, and a rank of 5 in Russia.

Grishin was born on a Russian missile base in the Soviet Union, surrounded by engineers and programmers. His father designed radar systems for the MiG-29 fighter, and from a young age Grishin remembers being fascinated by robots. When the former Soviet Union collapsed, Grishin studied programming at the Moscow State Technical University. By the time he was 20, he was working remotely from his student hostel as a project manager for a Florida-based digital design company. Soon afterward he was working at Molotok.ru, a “Russian eBay.” Grishin proved incredibly resourceful, and when Molotok was bought by Yuri Milner, the billionaire Russian financier, he made Grishin the CEO of his new Web conglomerate, Mail.ru Group. Grishin was 24.

Under Grishin’s leadership, Mail.ru has become one of the most successful Russian Web corporations, and has been called “Russia’s Yahoo,” referring to its wide pop-culture appeal. “If you watch the performance of the company, then you’d say he’s an innovative visionary who built well on the business model,” says investment banker Terry Schallich, who helped manage Mail.ru’s IPO.

But Grishin is interested in more than just the online world. In 2012 he decided to pursue his childhood dream and longtime passion by launching Grishin Robotics, a venture firm with a focus on personal robotics. He invested $25 million, or 15% of his net worth, into the firm, and has already taken a number of newcomers in the robotics industry under his wing, including DoubleRobotics and RobotAppstore.

“There’s something childlike about Grishin’s interest in robotics,” says MIT Technology Review reporter Antonio Regalado. “The holdup to [his] visions has been technology. Now, with inexpensive sensors and software, he thinks robots - like email in Russia a decade ago - are ready for mass consumer markets.”

Register now to be part of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival and to attend the “Consumer Robots Everywhere: The Next Big Thing” session on Saturday, March 8. For the full picture of all sessions and evening events at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival, visit the day-by-day schedule. Also, learn more about the best of the best programming for the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival by visiting the new Recommendations page.