Co-founder of ‘Russia’s Google’ dies, aged 48

Co-founder of ‘Russia’s Google’ dies, aged 48
Photograph: Yandex

Ilya Segalovich, one of the founders of Yandex, dubbed the “Google of Russia’, died yesterday at the age of 48 from complications related to stomach cancer. Segalovich helped found Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine, more than 20 years ago and since 2000, worked as chief technology officer and executive director of the company.

Yandex was founded in 1997 by Segalovich, his school friend Arkady Volozh and Arkady Borkovsky. The name, thought up by Segalovich, stands for “Yet Another iNDEXer”. Since its launch, the company has gone from strength to strength and today, remains Russia’s top search engine, despite the best efforts of rival Google. According to Russian internet ratings portal LiveInternet, Yandex has 61.6% of Russia’s search engine market (compared to Google’s approximate 25%), while analytics firm ComScore reported in May that the company has a monthly audience of 54.3 million.

Yandex, which launched its search engine a year earlier than Google, also operates in Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The two internet giants have been close rivals over the years with both vying for greater market share in Russia. Constant technological innovation — including services such as Yandex Maps, Yandex Money, Yandex-Disk and Yandex Photos — has meant the firm has succeeded in being one of the few search engines to trump or equal Google, in the case of Yandex in Russian-speaking countries. In May 2011, Yandex proved its worth by raising $1.3bn in an initial public offering on NASDAQ, the biggest technology flotation in the US since Google’s seven years earlier.

After graduating from the Moscow Geologic Exploration Institution with a degree in geophysics, Segalovich began his career in search technologies in 1990 as head of the software department at Arcadia, founded by Volozh and Borkovsky. At Arcadia, the predecessor to Yandex, Volozh and Segalovich went on to develop a search engine with Russian morphology that allowed users to find search terms according to Russian grammar rules. In 1993, Segalovich moved to CompTek International, a Russian technology and communications company, to lead the firm’s work on search engine technology.

Segalovich, who was born in Nizhny Novogord, was also known for his philanthropic work and in 1993, launched Maria’s Children Art Rehabilitation Centre for orphans and children with special needs from the Moscow region with his wife Maria Yeliseyeva. In April, he said he planned to donate his share of $607m from a Yandex stock sale to charity.

Volozh, chief executive of Yandex, said: “Ilya was a lifelong friend and this is a terrible loss for me personally and for all of us at Yandex. Ilya’s contributions to the founding and development of Yandex were invaluable. Beyond his role at the company, his philanthropic contributions touched many children in need.

“My thoughts and those of all of the Yandex family are with Ilya’s family at this difficult time. We know that the strong technical team Ilya helped to build will carry on the work Ilya cared so passionately about. Ilya had an encyclopedic knowledge of technology, and his highest ethical standards have always set the benchmark for us all.”

Segalovich is survived by his wife and five children.