San Francisco Elon Musk’s takeover bid for Twitter is backed by a bevy of big-name investors and well-known Silicon Valley greats. One of the less prominent comrades-in-arms is a German technology investor who is hardly known in this country.
The Dubai-based investment firm Vy Capital has pledged $ 700 million, equivalent to about 654 million euros, to finance Musk’s offer for Twitter, making it the third largest external investor for the possible deal, in which Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison and Sequoia Capital also want to participate. This is clear from mandatory notifications to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Little is publicly known about Vy’s funding sources or the type of investments the firm is making. The company’s website consists of a single page without an address and contact details. The assets under management collected by the German founder Alexander Tamas add up to more than five billion dollars, official documents show and people familiar with the matter report.
And now Vy is involved in the planned Twitter takeover by Musk, which already seems to have a place in the history books, even if it should not come about because of the dispute over fake accounts. Vy’s capital commitment for the $44 billion transaction exceeds that of Brookfield Asset Management and Qatar.
Tamas has contacts with well-known investors. Before founding Vy, he worked closely with Russian-Israeli billionaire Yuri Milner. He also seems to have business connections with Musk. According to data from Pitchbook, Vy has already invested in Musk’s Boring company.
Tamas has also put money into the Tesla CEO’s rocket company SpaceX and brain machine maker Neuralink. According to LinkedIn, Benjamin Birchall, a son of Musk’s right-hand man Jared Birchall, is currently completing an analyst internship at Vy.
A representative for Tamas declined to comment. During a recent visit to the company’s office in Dubai, only one assistant was present, who said that the rest of the employees work on a mobile basis. Including Tamas, this is about ten in the emirate, according to LinkedIn, about 25 people work for the company worldwide.
In a 2020 document from the blank cheque company Vy Global Growth, it means that Vy has more than two billion dollars in assets under management. That has more than doubled since then. It consists of some funds with about a billion dollars of available funds, according to people familiar with the company’s activities. The donors include large American foundations, it is said.
A Twitter account for Tamas has been around since March 2009. The profile picture is the same as that of his LinkedIn profile, the banners adorn “Star Wars” stormtroopers from Lego. The account was likened to an April 21 tweet from Musk asking the social media platform to authenticate “all real people” as part of the dispute over the number of fake accounts.
After working on technology deals for Goldman Sachs Group in London, Tamas joined Milner’s investment firm DST Global as a partner in 2008, where he made lucrative bets on companies such as Airbnb and Facebook, as well as an investment in Twitter at the time. With Tamas on board, DST acquired a 4 percent stake in the Berlin-based online fashion house Zalando in 2012. Until 2011, he was also Managing Director at the Russian Mail.ru Group.
Before joining Goldman, he was a founding member of Arma Partners, a company that advises companies and investors in the technology sector on financing issues.
Tamas and his former Goldman colleague Mateusz Szeszkowski founded Vy in 2013 with the vision of “investing in some of the world’s leading companies and owning them for decades,” according to an official document.
He now runs the fund along with John Herring, the founder of cloud software company Lookout, who, however, does not mention Vy on his LinkedIn profile. Tamas and Hering hold the largest shares in Vy Global Growth, according to a Spacs statement. Another investor is Javier Olivan, who will become Meta’s chief operating officer this fall.
The company’s assets included stakes in Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify, audience tracker Comscore, online lender Lending Club and game maker Activision Blizzard. It seems that these holdings were dissolved by 2018. The company has also invested in private technology companies such as Blockchain.com Reddit is investing.
His expertise and skill in investing prompted venture capitalists Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen to refer to him as “Milner’s human supercomputer”. The Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, appointed Tamas to an advisory board for the digital economy.
Free Speech Advocate
Tamas is still a German citizen and currently lives in Europe. When he is in Dubai, he directs Vy partly from a palatial villa in the Al Barari neighborhood, a remote suburb with luxury apartments, according to the people. The company also has an office in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In addition to his investment activities, Tamas founded the data research company Synaptic and supports research on artificial intelligence at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford. He also seems to share Musk’s interest in free speech.
“What I think is wrong is the idea that our social media platforms should determine what we can and cannot see,” Tamas said in an interview with the Berggruen Institute in 2019. It is dangerous for private companies to determine what is acceptable as freedom of expression and what is not.