One of tech’s best investors just bet $1.16B on the Russian classifieds industry

Naspers, the South African media-biz-turned-VC-giant, bought the rest of a Russian classifieds company for $1.16B.

The South African media company Naspers bought out the Russian classifieds marketplace Avito in a $1.16B deal.

After a freakishly farsighted 2001 investment left Naspers with more cash than it could spend, the company transformed into one of the world’s largest tech investors — and classifieds are its next big bet.

The big bet behind it all 

Naspers started out as a South African print media business that played a terrible role in apartheid. But after its print news biz started drying up in 2000, Naspers decided to diversify by investing $32m in an unknown Chinese startup: Tencent.

By 2018, Naspers’ original investment was worth $175B — that’s more than the entirety of Naspers’ media operation.

With billions to blow, Naspers invested widely across the world — and soon looked more like a global VC than a South African media company.

Sometimes the best VC firms aren’t VC firms

But Tencent wasn’t Naspers’ only good guess: The company invested in dozens of other successful startups (ever heard of Facebook or Flipkart?).

Today Naspers runs businesses in 120 countries and markets, with a particular focus on several categories, investing in numerous food delivery startups, fintech, online education, and now classifieds sites.

Keeping things classi(fied)

Classifieds sites account for a significant slice of Naspers’ sweet, sweet investment pie: with stakes in a half dozen classifieds platforms, including majority ownership of OLX, Letgo, Dubizzle and a previous investment of $1.2B in Avito in 2015.

But since the Russian classifieds market grew 30% last year, Naspers chose to double down on its bet on the growing market for marketplaces.

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