Pavel Durov is a world famous Russian businessman. His name is associated with one of the world’s fastest growing projects – Telegram messenger. Some people consider him to be a strange and erratic person, others think he’s a snob and an introvert. Durov is an example of a person who thinks independently. He cares little about what other people think about his actions. And this is something that many of us often lack. Would you like to always do what you think is right and not depend on the approval of others? This is how Pavel Durov does it.
Pavel was born on October 10th, 1984 in the Soviet Union. It would still be five years before political developments would change the lives of Soviet citizens. Despite all of the complexities that the Durov family encountered, it was the optimism and diligence of his parents that helped them to survive these difficult times and to instill the same qualities in their children. Pavel’s parents are highly intelligent and educated people. His father was a professor, a Doctor of Philology, until 2013. He headed the Department of Classical Philology of the Faculty of Philology at St. Petersburg State University. His mother worked as a teacher at the same university. Pavel has an older brother, Nikolai. He became the world champion in programming among students – twice.
He had to change schools from time to time. First he went to school in St. Petersburg. Then his father was offered a job in Italy and the family temporarily moved to Turin. Durov went to a local school there. Upon his return to St. Petersburg he began to have problems with his teachers and in 1996 he moved to the Academic Gymnasium of St. Petersburg State University. Durov liked everything there, especially the fact that subjects were taught in depth, including four foreign languages. As a result, the businessman now speaks 9 foreign languages. Among others, Persian and Latin. In 2001 Pavel Durov graduated from the gymnasium with a silver medal.
While he was still studying in the 4th grade he became interested in programming. And already then, Pavel and his older brother wrote their first computer programs. Despite his obvious talent in programming, Pavel nevertheless did not follow in the footsteps of his brother. His brother studied mathematics and programming at St. Petersburg State University, but Pavel chose his specialty in “English Philology and Translation”.
But this did not stop the young Durov from continuing to work in his favorite area. So, for example, he created the resource durov.com. This was a platform which students could exchange information on: exam questions, essays, course papers, etc. And one more successful student experiment was the site spbgu.ru. This was practically the prototype of the future “VKontakte” – a forum for students of the university where Pavel studied. The young man already showed leadership qualities there. He became an activist and, according to the other students of St. Petersburg State University, when he began to speak everyone fell silent and listened attentively.
The university compiled a rating of students with the highest level of intelligence and of course our hero was included in it. Pavel received more government and presidential scholarships and also won a scholarship for the Potanin program for three consecutive years. Pavel graduated university in 2006 with a red diploma (which, by the way, is still at St. Petersburg State University) and with a rank of reserve lieutenant.
While working on his student projects Pavel realized that the world is ruled not only by money but also by information, more precisely by those who own or distribute it. It then became clear to him that the internet provides unlimited possibilities, including the opportunity to work for oneself. This is quite consistent with the psychological profile of a novice businessman. And so he made his choice.
Having practiced on the university’s website where each student had his own account with a list of friends and the ability to blog, Pavel decided to scale his idea for a minimum the whole country.
By now Durov’s attention shifted to the momentum that Facebook was gaining. After speaking with his acquaintance, Vyacheslav Mirilashvili, who was studying in the U.S. at the time, they had a detailed discussion of the idea. The friends decided to create their own project. So, in September of 2006 the Russian speaking social network “VKontakte” was born. In addition to the founders, Pavel’s brother Nikolai was invited to the team. He was needed to optimize the load on the servers.
Three million – this is how many users registered on VKontakte in the first year of operation. Since at first the project was completely non-commercial and did not advertise, it did not bring any profit. To support the operation of the servers there was a need for funds. This raised the issue of investors.
And the first was Yuri Milner and his fund Digital Sky Technologies. 25% of the social network cost him more than $6 million. Two years after the launch of the site there were about 20 million people registered and advertising followed. The social network became the market leader in users on the Russian internet.
As he unleashed and monetized his project, Durov began financing startups in 2011 which were selected on a competitive basis. And in 2012, having made a statement that “Wikipedia is the most important digital project invented by mankind,” donated $1 million for its development. In the same year, the sale of Nikolai Kononov’s book “The Code of Durov”, dedicated to the creation and development of VKontakte, went on sale. Rights to the screen version of the book were immediately bought, but something went wrong and the movie about Durov has not yet been made.
Durov can take quite dramatic steps. He has demonstrated this more than once. For example, in the case of the famous Russian singer Sergei Lazarev who complained that there was a lot of pirated content on the social network and even promised to file a lawsuit against VK. Pavel immediately banned the performer. Not one of his songs was available. And when ssuch search attempts were made, the words appeared: “The composition was withdrawn from public access because of the lack of cultural value”.
It is well known how he reacts to the actions of those who oppose him. The whole world passed around a photo of Durov sticking up his middle finger with a caption: “The official response to the trash-holding company Mail.ru to its repeated attempts to acquire VKontakte.”
From 2012 to 2014 there was an almost continuous struggle for the ownership of the social network among its founders and investors. It ended on April 21st, 2014 when Durov was informed that he had been fired from his own project. This was preceded by another event. The prosecutor general’s office demanded the site block the community of Alexey Navalny “RosPil” and to provide data on the organizers of the community “Euromaidan”. Durov refused and finally wrote: “Today, VKontakte has passed under the full control of Igor Sechin and Alisher Usmanov. Under the current conditions of Russia this was probably inevitable, but I’m glad that we lasted 7 and a half years”.
Apparently, the idea of creating Telegram was born back in late 2011. In December of that year, protests against the falsification of election results swept throughout Russia. The FSB asked Durov to block some opposition minded communities on VKontakte. He refused and was invited to the prosecutor’s office “for a conversation.” Then the intelligence services went to his home.
After all of these events, Pavel decided to create a secure information channel so that he could communicate with his family and colleagues, and at the same time be sure that no one else could “eavesdrop” on the conversation.
Telegram started working on August 14th, 2013. Initially, the messenger was developed for smartphones and other mobile devices. Telegram, as compared with other messengers, has two advantages – speed and security. This is provided by a special method of encoding information. Also, stickers without backgrounds became unexpectedly popular. They look just like normal stickers.
In 2014, the messenger service received an award at the Europas competition in Berlin for the fastest growing startup of the year. By the end of the same year, the application had more than 1 million downloads. And after two months – about 35 million. The New York Times called Durov the Russian Zuckerberg and in early 2016 the messenger service had about 100 million users.
Using the example of his two products – VK and Telegram, Pavel Durov proved this. But he did not become more compliant, and the Russian authorities warned him about the possibility of blocking the messenger service if the policy of anonymity did not change. After the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg in April of 2017, the FSB said that the criminals used Telegram for communication and demanded that he provide the encryption keys to law enforcement agencies. Durov’s answer was: “Confidentiality is ultimately more important than our fear of bad things, such as terrorism.”
On April 16th, 2018 Roskomnadzor started blocking Telegram. Tens of millions of IP addresses were blocked which caused the crash of sites that had nothing to do with the messenger. At the time of this writing – in the beginning of May of 2018 – Telegram is still working in the territory of the Russian Federation. The head of Roskomnadzor, Alexander Zharov, said that even they are now available on the messenger service.
Durov’s plans to create a blockchain platform became known in January of 2018. This project has already managed to attract $1.7 billion.
By the summer it is planned to launch the TON (Telegram Open Network) – Telegram Passport. Any user of the instant messenger service can pay with the cryptocurrency GRAM and store their personal data. Presumably it will work like this: the user uploads their documents (passport, driver’s license, bank account, etc.) to the service which, if necessary, will be transferred to the services which Telegram cooperates with. After that, the user can use the services of both the instant messenger and the other service sites. Thus, a major problem will be solved – the relationship between the authorities of different countries and cryptology, which are concerned about the anonymity of cryptographic translations and payments. Experts suggest that next year GRAM will become the main means of payment.
Pavel Durov has an iron rule – no one should know anything about his personal life. Therefore, if any information appears, it is extremely difficult to confirm or deny it. After he left Russia in 2014 and received citizenship of Saint Kitts and Nevis, he is now able to travel around the world without hindrance, which Durov does. 2-3 weeks here, 2-3 weeks there. The whole world follows his social network accounts where he uploads photos of beautiful landscapes (no girls!) Or, for example, half-naked pictures of himself. I must say, he is in great physical shape. It has long been known that Pavel is a vegetarian and generally a supporter of a healthy lifestyle. He prefers to wear black clothes. His favorite movie – the drama “12 angry men.” He is a member of the Mensa community, which includes people with an IQ higher than 98% of the planet’s inhabitants.