The encrypted app Telegram has been valued at $30 billion and has surpassed 500 million users around the world, reported Russian news outlet The Bell. Telegram’s founder, Russian-born Pavel Durov recently rejected an offer to buy 10% of the company.
At the beginning of January his biggest competitor, WhatsApp, spooked some users with a new clause in its user contract about transferring data to Facebook (in reality, this data exchange has been operating for years). People also rushed to find more secure messengers after the scandals involving Facebook and Twitter in the wake of the storming of the U.S. Capitol. Telegram briefly became the second most downloaded app in the U.S. on Monday and, the following day, Durov announced 25 million new users had joined in 72 hours (the joiners included Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Brazil leader Jair Bolsonaro). It now has over 500 million users, compared with 1.6 billion on WhatsApp.
It’s no coincidence that — as soon as Telegram enjoyed a popularity boom — news emerged the company was in talks to attract investment. Silicon Valley news site The Information reported Wednesday that Telegram was in talks with banks about raising hundreds of millions of dollars of debt and the possibility of converting that debt into shares in the event of an IPO. A source told The Bell on Thursday that a consortium of endowment funds wanted to buy up to 10 percent of Telegram’s shares at a price valuing the whole company at $30 billion. However, Durov rejected the offer.
Most of Telegram’s new users were attracted by the company’s insistence it will not ban anyone unless they discuss illegal activities. Telegram also has a reputation for never cooperating with the authorities, as illustrated by attempts by the Russian government to block the service. However, things may not be that simple in Russia. Noticeably, relations between the Russian government and Telegram warmed last year: efforts to block the service were halted, and Telegram’s vice-president spoke at a conference alongside Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
The issue of government access to encrypted messages on certain apps is now front and center as the United States faces a Constitutional crisis and the Left works to silence pro-Trump views, social media, and communications.
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