Jacob Silverman | Longreads | July 2018 | 10 minutes (2,418 words)
Telegram, a messaging app with more than 200 million users, is a company known for its rakish independence. Pavel Durov, who created the app with his brother, Nikolai, is a 33-year old from St. Petersburg, Russia, with a taste for dark suits and tax-free municipalities. In 2006, he founded VKontakte (VK), Russia’s answer to Facebook, which quickly became the country’s largest social network and a target of its security services. Durov, who identifies as a “part-time troll” in his Twitter bio, earned a reputation as a sort of maverick entrepreneur, a persona that has come with both free-speech absolutism and immature antics. His most notorious stunt took place in May 2012, when he stood at his office window and tossed paper airplanes made of rubles down onto the street below. He later explained that he had been talking to a vice president at his company who had been awarded a large bonus, and when the VP said that he didn’t care about money, the two decided to throw cash out the window—until bystanders started fighting over the windfall.