Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a world traveler already, but this next trip just might be one of the most dynamic yet – and may be one to set the tone for Facebook’s future. Next week, Zuck will be in Russia, first to host a “Hack” marathon with local developers, but he will also be there to see some tech sites – perhaps on a fact-finding mission. After all, for all of Facebook’s global reach (900 million-plus users), Facebook is not the dominant social-networking site in the former Eastern Bloc.
Zuckerberg is scheduled to meet with Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, who apparently is very tech-savvy for being a world leader, and in fact is credited with the development of a technology incubator called the Skolkovo Foundation – the Russian Silicon Valley. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), which has been conducting a World Hack Tour in several international cities – Berlin, Barcelona and Buenos Aires have already hosted these app-development marathons – and it will be making a new stop in Moscow this week.
Zuckerberg is in Moscow for other reasons, though, as well. He likely will be checking out the Skolkovo Foundation as well as the Russian social-networking scene to serve a couple of purposes – one, to perhaps locate some new talent for Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), and also to figure out why the most-visited social-network site in Russia and the former Soviet Union is VKontakte with 40 million users – four times more than the Russian version of Facebook.
“Most of the winners in Russian internet are local players and social networks are no exception,” said Dmitry Alimov, founder of Frontier Ventures, to Financial Times. “In Russia, Facebook is way behind Russian social networking sites. Key reasons include late market entry and limited understanding of the local internet ecosystem.”
On the other side of the coin, Russia may try to recruit Zuckerberg and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) to invest in Russia through the Skolkovo Foundation, which has support from International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) and Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO).
How productive this venture will be for Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) remains to be seen, but having Zuckerberg himself tour the area and ask questions of successful social networks in Russia could certainly lead to some valuable intelligence to take back to Menlo Park. Investors in Facebook stock, like Tiger Global Management LLC‘s Lee Fixel, may likely watch for what comes out of Facebook in the weeks and months following Zuck’s Russian journey.