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Pavel Durov

Pavel Durov is a Russian entrepreneur, CEO, and Founder of (TON). He alongside his brother co-founded Telegram[3], an encrypted messaging application that attracted over 60 million active users in less than 2 years since its start in 2013. Before that, Pavel founded VK[2] – a popular social network in Russia and some other countries with over 100 million active users. [1]

Career

Pavel Durov is the younger brother of  and he is also known as the "Russian Mark Zuckerberg" as the app he founded, VKontakte (VK)[2] is quite similar to Facebook. Some years after his dismissal as CEO of VK in 2014, the Durov brothers traveled the world in self-imposed exile as citizens of Saint Kitts and Nevis. In 2017, Pavel joined the World Economic Forum (WEF) Young Global Leaders as a representative of Finland. Durov was naturalized as a French citizen in August 2021. As at 29 September 2022, his net worth is estimated at $15.1 billion. In 2022, he was recognized as the richest person in the United Arab Emirates according to Forbes. [4][5][6][7]

VK

Pavel Durov's career began in 2006 when he developed VKontakte[2] with Ilya Perekopsky[8] later known as VK, which was initially influenced by Facebook. The company grew to a value of $3 billion during which he and his brother Nikolai Durov built up the VK website. [9]

In 2011, Pavel was involved in a standoff with the police in Saint Petersburg when the government demanded the removal of opposition politicians' pages after the 2011 election to the Duma; Durov posted a picture of a dog with his tongue out wearing a hoodie and the police left after an hour when he did not answer the door. [9][5]

In 2012, Pavel publicly posted a picture of himself extending his middle finger and calling it his official response to Mail.ru Group's efforts to buy VK. In December 2013, Durov decided to sell his 12% to Ivan Tavrin (at that time 40% of the shares belonged to Mail.ru Group, and 48% to the United Capital Partners). Later, Tavrin resold these shares to Mail.ru Group. [10][11]

Dismissal from VK

On April 1st, 2014, Durov submitted his resignation to the board; at first, due to the fact the company confirmed he had resigned, it was believed to be related to the Russo-Ukrainian War which had started in February. However, Durov himself claimed it was an April Fool's Joke on the 3rd of April 2014. [12][13]

On the 16th of April 2014, Durov publicly refused to hand over the personal data of Ukrainian protesters to Russia's security agencies and block Alexei Navalny's[15] page on VK. Instead, he posted the relevant orders on his own VK page, claiming that the requests were unlawful. [14][16]

On the 21st of April 2014, Durov was dismissed as CEO of VK. The company claimed it was acting on his letter of resignation a month earlier that he failed to recall. Durov then claimed the company had been effectively taken over by Vladimir Putin's allies, suggesting his ouster was the result of both his refusal to hand over personal details of users to federal law enforcement and his refusal to hand over the personal details of people who were members of a VK group dedicated to the Euromaidan protest movement. Durov then left Russia and stated that he had "no plans to go back" and that "the country is incompatible with Internet business at the moment". [17][18]

Telegram

Pavel Durov founded Telegram[3], an encrypted messaging service in 2013. Upon leaving Russia, he obtained Saint Kitts and Nevis citizenship by donating $250,000 to the country's Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation and secured $300 million in cash within Swiss banks. This allowed him to focus on developing Telegram. Telegram was headquartered in Berlin and later moved to Dubai. [19][20]

In January 2018 it was revealed that, in a bid to monetize the growing success of Telegram, Durov was launching the "Gram" cryptocurrency and the platform. It raised a total of $1.7 billion from investors. However, these ventures were halted by the US SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) which argued in courts that Grams bypassed U.S. financing laws and should return the money to its investors. [21]

In 2018, Russia attempted to block Telegram, after the company refused to cooperate with Russian security services. A leaked letter by an FSB employee stated that the block was tied to the company's intention to launch the Telegram Open Network. During the attempted block period, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued to operate official channels on the app. The block order was lifted in 2020, after two years of block attempts, which the service reportedly evaded using domain fronting. The stated reason was Telegram agreeing to "counter terrorism and extremism" on the platform. [22][23]

TON

Telegram Open Network ( Network) is a project created by brothers and Pavel Durov to build a platform that disrupts the  space by leveraging Telegram’s wide user base. The platform promised the speed and scalability important for the mass adoption of . Through TON, Telegram users were supposed to be able to buy, transfer, and store value in ID-verifiable wallets facilitated by the GRAM coin. [21]

However, SEC intervened in October 2019 asking Telegram to temporarily restrict the distribution of Gram tokens. The agency argued that the initial purchasers of Gram would be acting as underwriters, and the resale of Gram, once distributed, would be an unregistered distribution of securities. After a long court fight, Pavel Durov announced the end of Telegram's active participation with the blockchain in May 2020. Durov referenced third-party efforts to launch independent versions of the blockchain but said no Telegram employee is involved with these projects. [21][24]

"While networks based on the technology we built for TON may appear, we won't have any affiliation with them and are unlikely to ever support them in any way. So be careful, and don't let anyone mislead you," Durov wrote. [24]

Personal Life

Pavel Durov was born on October 10th, 1984. He received his United Arab Emirates citizenship in April 2021 and that is where he is based. He is single and has 2 children. [7][25]

Durov was listed on the Forbes Billionaires List in 2022, with a net worth of $15.1 billion. His fortune is largely driven by his ownership of Telegram[3]. As of September 2022, Durov was the 104th richest person in the world. [7]

Pavel Durov reportedly donated about $90,000 worth of to help alleviate the financial burden of COVID-19 pandemic in Russia. Egor Zhukov, a student political activist who organized a crowdfunding campaign to help people cope with the pandemic-related crisis, announced on May 27, 2020, that Durov donated 10 BTC to the effort. [30][31]

Education

Pavel Durov went to Saint Petersburg State University where he studied for a Master of Science, and graduated in 2006. [9]

Awards & Recognition

In August 2014, Durov was named the most promising Northern European leader under 30. [26]

In 2017, he was chosen to join the WEF Young Global Leaders, representing Finland. [27]

In June 2018, the Union of Kazakhstan's Journalists awarded Durov "for his principled position against censorship and the state's interference into citizens' free online correspondence." [28]

In 2018, Fortune magazine included Durov in their "40 Under 40" list, an annual ranking of the most influential young people in business. [29]

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