Pavel Durov, the creator of social network, VKonktakte has been dubbed as ‘Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg’. He is 32 year old CEO of an encrypted messaging app named as Telegram currently and has fled Russia. Here is his life story,
Durov is known for his unique lifestyle: He only wears black, and he travels constantly around the world. He’s had run-ins with armed gangs, the Kremlin, and once threw money out of his office window.
Here’s the incredible, and often bizarre, story of Durov’s life:
After leaving university in 2006 the Durov brothers started VKontakte, which was a Russian-language social network that worked in a similar way to Facebook. It became incredibly popular and grew to over 350 million users.
Durov earned a lot of money from the site. He’s reported to have a net worth of around $260 million (£183 million.)
VKontakte was used as a hub by anti-government protestors who organized events to support outspoken political activist Alexei Navalny.
In 2011 Durov responded to government demands for more control over the site by sharing a photo of a dog in a hoodie sticking out its tongue. His message to the Kremlin was clear: He wasn’t going to do what it wanted.
Durov claims that armed men dressed in camouflage clothing arrived at his apartment that night.
He gradually lost control of VKontakte to investors linked to Mail.ru, a company that had ties to the Kremlin. He remained defiant, though, and posted a now-deleted photo on Instagram in which he gave investors the middle finger.
In 2013 Durov was accused of being behind the wheel of a white Mercedes car that struck a police officer in Moscow. He denied the allegation and claimed that he couldn’t even drive.
Durov was losing control of VKontakte, and he had been ignoring requests to show up to a police station for questioning. Police eventually raided the VKontakte office, but Durov wasn’t there. He had left the country just days before on a flight out of Pulkovo airport.
The Durov brothers had a backup plan. They secretly established a company in Buffalo, New York and flew some loyal VKontakte employees to the US.
The secret project in New York was Telegram, an encrypted chat app that makes it incredibly difficult for governments to spy on users. It was, in a way, a response to the intrusion by the Kremlin into VKontakte.
Durov reportedly spends $1 million (£700,000) of his money every month to keep Telegram running. It’s not generating any revenue yet.