STOP US IF you’ve heard this before: A college student starts a social network, grows wealthy and proceeds to anger a lot of powerful people. Only this version is set in Russia.
In 2006 Pavel Durov founded Vkontakte (now known as VK), the largest Europe-based social network, with more than 350 million registered users. Durov claimed to have been ousted from the company in 2014 after tangling with Vladimir Putin’s government over censorship issues. By then he was already at work on his next social media creation, the encrypted messaging app Telegram, which has north of 100 million users—including members of ISIS, who have set up countless secret channels and a help desk for how to avoid surveillance.
Now an exile from Russia, the 31-year-old Durov, who is worth an estimated $300 million, considers himself “a legal citizen of the world.”