“Pick a card,” archimage David Blaine said to a accumulation of partygoers central Barcelona’s Maritime Museum as guests clutching glasses of blush albino stood below bags of cardboard planes abeyant from the ceiling.

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Later that night in 2016, Mark Ronson performed a DJ set as women cutting pilot apparel danced beside him. While the absorption was on these attractions, the man who had befuddled the affair circuitous quietly.

Pavel Durov, the Russian administrator abaft messaging app Telegram whose abundance has been estimated at $3.4bn (£2.4bn), wore his archetypal accouterments of a atramentous shirt and jacket.

Durov was adulatory his app extensive 100m users. The entrepreneur, who doesn’t booze booze or eat fast food, looked on as guests sipped albino and ate Telegram cupcakes until the affair agitated out assimilate Barcelona’s streets at 2am.

In contempo months, Durov’s encrypted messaging app has exploded in popularity. Bodies accept alive up in droves for the app that lets them allocution deeply to friends, accelerate activated stickers and browse accessible channels for their interests. 

They’ve been comforted by the app’s independence, with no amusing arrangement basement Telegram that threatens to use their abstracts to augment them targeted adverts. The messaging app has surpassed 500m account alive users this year.

Sensor Tower estimates that Telegram has been downloaded 51.7m times so far in January, up 215pc on downloads for January 2020.

The arrival has been apprenticed by apropos about Facebook-owned WhatsApp’s behavior that could see added user abstracts handed to the app’s owner.

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But Durov, who is generally referred to as Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg, faces an ambiguous future. He scrapped a $1.2bn plan to accession money through his own cryptocurrency afterward a acknowledged complaint from the US government. And he’s now attempting to accomplish allusive amounts of acquirement for the aboriginal time.

The 36-year-old’s biking affairs is in abounding means a assiduity of his childhood. Born in 1984 in Saint Petersburg, Durov and his ancestors spent years in Turin while his academician ancestor accomplished there.

Pavel and his earlier brother Nikolai developed a adulation of technology, but it was his adolescent brother who started VKontakte, a amusing arrangement that resembled Facebook.

In 2006, the aforementioned year he accelerating with a philology amount from Saint Petersburg State University, Durov launched the site, afterwards renamed VK.

The brothers had admirable ambitions for their project. A account of confined oil and cyberbanking absolutist Mikhail Khodorkovsky afraid in their home, aboriginal agent Anton Rozenberg recalled.

Investment ploughed into VK, with its appraisal extensive $3bn as the armpit grew to added than 20m users by 2014.

A fan of arch stunts, Durov and some advisers threw about £1,400 account of money out of their appointment window in 2012, accepting bankrupt it into cardboard planes.

“I bethink a software architect acquainted calmly that the sum befuddled out of the window exceeded his account pay,” Rozenberg wrote.

Durov’s aggressive attributes clashed with the Russian government’s admiration to accept the VK pages of protestors removed. Durov refused, responding with a photograph of a dog afraid out its tongue. Armed men visited his accommodation that night, he claimed.

Mail.ru, a Russian business with links to the country’s government, began architecture a pale in VK. Durov resisted attempts to admission VK, publishing a photograph of himself presenting his average finger.

The Russian government accumulated added burden on Durov, with a 2013 badge analysis alleging that he was abaft the caster of a car back it collection into a policeman. Durov denied he endemic the car and has said he never abstruse to drive.

The administrator claims he was pressured into affairs his 12pc allotment to Mail.ru’s owner, giving the business a majority pale in VK that accustomed it to adios Durov.

Eventually, Durov’s years of continuing up to the Russian government affected him into exile. He boarded a flight out of Russia canicule afore a badge arrest on VK’s office.

With $300m from the auction of his pale and 2,000 bitcoins, Durov became a nomad. He catholic the apple and assassin engineers to body Telegram, an encrypted messaging app that threatens to abate the Russian government’s admission to people’s data.

Durov’s acquaintance in Russia led to a apprehension of governments. “When I lived in Russia, I developed the addiction of never speaking over the phone, as every chat was actuality recorded by base law administration agencies,” Durov wrote on Telegram back he launched encrypted calls.

Durov roamed the world, eventually clearing into activity in Dubai area he browsed the dating app Tinder. He has back 2017 been affiliated to Russian allure archetypal Alena Shishkova, who accepted their on-off accord in a contempo Instagram post.

He is now a aborigine of the Caribbean nation Saint Kitts and Nevis afterwards altruistic $250,000 to the country’s Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation.

The administrator appears about a decade adolescent than his 36 years of age. He credits a austere affairs involving no coffee, booze or meat as one of the affidavit for his bass anatomy which he has apparent off in photographs attempt in the desert.

“I’m a big accepter in self-restraint,” he wrote in 2019, “I alone had a agitation already in the aftermost 15 years. Typically, I aloof don’t get ill.” He has experimented with fasting, already claiming that a six-day fast helped accomplish him added productive.

Durov is now active the aerial life, biting the Russian government while adequate an arrival of privacy-conscious bodies to Telegram. 

But he’s yet to authenticate that the app can become a acceptable business. It has been estimated that active Telegram consumes about £700,000 of Durov’s affluence every year. 

The banishment may arise to be in paradise, but he’s adverse a active alarm on whether Telegram can become acceptable as able-bodied as popular.

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