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How Unicorns are Launched: Telegram

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August 2, 2023
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min read


Founded in 2013, Telegram emerged as a champion of secure communication amidst a market saturated with instant messaging apps. Pavel Durov, hailing from Russia, conceptualised Telegram with an unwavering commitment to privacy and security, attributes that would eventually contribute to its phenomenal growth. Today, Telegram is a force to be reckoned with, boasting a significant global user base.


The masterminds behind Telegram, Pavel Durov, already had a taste of success with VKontakte (VK), Russia's most extensive social network. Leveraging Pavel's business savviness and Nikolai's technical prowess, the duo embarked on their journey to revolutionise the world of digital communication.


Drawing from their experiences at VK, particularly their encounters with authorities concerning user privacy, the Durov brothers recognised a need for secure, private digital communication. This understanding was the primary impetus behind Telegram, an app dedicated to preserving user privacy and safeguarding data.


Telegram's initial offering, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), was a sleek and secure messaging app that emphasised user privacy with features like end-to-end encryption and self-destructing messages. This no-nonsense, privacy-first approach resonated with tech-savvy individuals and privacy enthusiasts, aiding Telegram's initial user base growth.


Telegram's journey to market fit was marked by numerous iterations, each step fine-tuned to cater to user feedback and adapt to changing digital trends. The primary focus was always on the fundamental value proposition: providing a secure, fast, and user-friendly messaging platform. The enthusiastic response to this initial focus confirmed their hypothesis - there was a strong appetite for privacy-centric communication.

An early, significant iteration was the addition of "Secret Chats", a feature that let users send self-destructing messages that could not be forwarded. Telegram's team hypothesized that the demand for such a privacy-centric feature would be high, a hypothesis validated by the enthusiastic adoption of Secret Chats and the flood of positive user feedback.

Recognising the increasing need for cross-device accessibility, Telegram introduced cloud-based messaging. The team believed that users should access their messages from multiple devices, a feature lacking in many competing apps. The response was overwhelmingly positive, further validating the team's understanding of user needs.

In each case, the process was systematic. The team at Telegram started with a hypothesis, introduced a change, monitored the impact, and used the insights to shape the platform's evolution.

Finding Market Fit

Telegram found its product-market fit as a secure, speedy, and user-friendly messaging platform. The introduction of distinctive features such as Secret Chats and cloud-based messaging set Telegram apart from the competition. By satisfying the emerging global demand for enhanced digital privacy, Telegram found its place in the hearts and smartphones of users worldwide.


Telegram has come a long way from its initial days. With over 500 million monthly active users, it continues to disrupt the messaging app market. The company remains unwavering in its dedication to privacy and frequently rolls out updates and enhancements to stay relevant and satisfy its ever-growing user base.