Facebook, Zynga, Groupon, Twitter and LinkedIn have come to define the social Web. Founded within the last five years, the quintet of start-ups is now estimated to be worth more than $71 billion.
Behind these companies is a tangle of venture capitalists, founders, engineers and angel investors who stand to profit handsomely if these start-ups go public. For some companies, it is just a matter of when. Groupon is considering a 2011 offering that would value the social buying site at $25 billion, while Facebook has signaled that it will go public next year.
The club of technology insiders is a deeply connected, interdependent network, with many players overlapping at one time or another on the same investments, boards and payrolls.
For example, the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner — who was virtually unknown in Silicon Valley before his first Facebook investment in May 2009 — is a critical connector in this ecosystem. Mr. Milner, the founder of the investment firm DST Global, has plowed more than $1 billion into Facebook, Zynga and Groupon in the last two years. He has also drawn the Wall Street elite into this world, joining with Goldman Sachs for a $1.5 billion investment in Facebook.
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