The companies did not disclose the size of the deal. But in an interview, Mail.ru cofounder and chief executive Dmitry Grishin said the acquisition was another step in trying to expand his company’s reach beyond Russia, where it has been the leading online presence for almost a decade.
“A year ago, we decided that we have bigger ambitions,” he said. “We decided we could use our operating experience and our development knowledge to reach a global audience. Maps.me is a company that already has an audience all around the world.”
Just three years old, the Swiss company launched a mapping app based on OpenStreetMap, the open-source mapping service that lets users contribute location-based information. With Maps.me, users can download versions of maps to be used online and offline on their mobile devices. The service has 7 million users, with 18 percent in Russia and 13 percent in the U.S.
That’s key for Mail.ru, which opened an office in Mountain View, Calif., last year that now has about 10 employees. The company created My.com to be the umbrella for its U.S.-focused services. Maps.me will be a part of My.com, along with chat, email, and game applications that have already launched.
Breaking into the U.S. hasn’t been easy, Grishin acknowledged. It’s requiring a big change in culture for a company that has 3,000 employees and is used to steamrolling the competition.
It’s hard to overstate what a dominant force Mail.ru is in Russia. The company runs the nation’s leading email service, its largest Web portal, three social networks, an online gaming network, PC-based games, and two instant messaging services. By some estimates, it reaches 96% of all Russian Internet users.
But in moving beyond its home turf, Grishin said, the company is trying to recapture the feeling of being startup. And infusing Mail.ru with startups like Maps.me and its 15 employees should help, he said.
“We are a big company in Russia. To go to new countries, we need to operate as a startup,” he said. “Here we have a big competitive advantage. But on the global stage we are a new player.”