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The weird and wonderful world of crypto-currencies is full of strange, big-money stories but perhaps the weirdest of the lot is that of Telegram.
Telegram is a messaging app that has something like 200 million users. It was founded by 33-year-old Russian Pavel Durov who, with his boyish Keanu Reeves-like good looks, maverick programmer persona and tendency to always dress in black, has often been compared to the world-saving, totem-like hacker from the movie The Matrix. Durov, apparently, likes Neo a lot.
Durov is in the news this week for two reasons. Firstly, the Russian Supreme Court has ordered Telegram to share the encryption keys that protect the messaging app’s user data. Durov says Telegram doesn’t have the keys but added that he wouldn’t even if it did because “Telegram stands for freedom and privacy.”
The second reason is Telegram’s planned ICO. Durov is, later this year, launching the Telegram GRAM crypto-coin and the planned ICO could raise as much as $5 billion. That would make it the biggest such crypto fundraiser yet. The minimum investment for “friends” is $500,000 while for outsiders it could be as high as $20 million. Gulp indeed.
Durov’s current tussle with the authorities in Moscow is nothing new. His first social network platform, VKontakte – known as the Russian Facebook – was ordered by authorities to hand over data concerning Ukaranian protest leaders. Instead, Durov sold his stake – for something like $300 million – and fled Russia. Since then, he has apparently lived a nomadic life with a small band of programmer comrades that flit between the Middle East, Europe and North America.
We don’t know if these other people are called Morpheus, Trinity and The Oracle. We don’t even know if Durov still secretly has links with Vladimir Putin. We also don’t know what he really intends to do with all the money he looks set to raise from the Telegram ICO. But perhaps all of this is missing the really important question.
What would Neo do with five billion?