Telegram Reaches 900m Users, Nears Profitability

Telegram chief executive Pavel Durov Image credit Pavel Durov Instagram

Encrypted messaging app Telegram reaches 900 million users, nears profitability as secretive company considers IPO

Encrypted messaging app Telegram has 900 million users, is nearing profitability and is considering a public listing, its co-founder Pavel Durov said in his first public interview in seven years.

Durov told the Financial Times that the Dubai-based company, which has only about 50 full-time staff, is making “hundreds of millions of dollars” in revenues after introducing advertising and premium subscriptions two years ago.

He said the company was hoping to become profitable this year or next year.

“The main reason why we started to monetise is because we wanted to remain independent,” Durov said, adding that he sees an IPO as “a means to democratise access to Telegram’s value”.

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Image credit: Unsplash

‘Mark Zuckerberg of Russia’

The platform remains lightly moderated, which could be a concern for advertisers, as has been the case with X – formerly Twitter – since its acquisition by Elon Musk.

Called the “Mark Zuckerberg of Russia”, Durov founded social media network VKontakte in 2007 in St Petersburg but fled the country in 2014, a year after founding Telegram, after refusing to provide data of Ukrainian VK users with Russia’s security services.

He said he has since sold his shares in VK under duress to Kremlin-friendly oligarchs.

Durov said Telegram had “studied several options” for an IPO without commenting on a timeline or venue, while unnamed sources told the FT the company would probably choose a US listing.

The entrepreneur said he would consider selling an allocation of stock to loyal users, similar to Reddit, which is planning an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange next week.

‘Competition of ideas’

Durov said annual expenses for each monthly users stood at less than 70 cents. The company has been testing advertising for one-to-many channels and plans to give channel moderators a 50 percent cut of advertising income.

Durov said Telegram is planning to improve moderation processes this year, amidst multiple elections around the world, and “deploy AI-related mechanisms to address potential issues”, but expressed his support for “the competition of ideas”.

“Unless they cross red lines, I don’t think that we should be policing people in the way they express themselves,” he said. “I believe that any idea should be challenged . . . Otherwise, we can quickly degrade into authoritarianism.”