Paul Durov and his team | Предприниматель

Paul Durov and his team

Early autumn morning in 2007, programmers and Paul Durov Oleg Andreev pounded on the keys, wanting to quickly launch an application that allows users to social network “VKontakte” draw a virtual spray paint. Network, they opened a year ago, has grown to hundreds of thousands of users per month. Recalls Andreev, the site is constantly attacked by hackers, after sleepless nights stuck together eyes, but the creator of “VKontakte ” Paul wanted to assess the Durov people’s reactions to the application “Graffiti “. When the first drawings, the programmers have fallen to sleep the monitors — they have office has ever had.

Three years later the company a 26-year Durova moved into the former headquarters of X5 Retail Group on Nevsky Prospekt, opposite the Kazan Cathedral, the home of “Singer “, topped with bronze and glass globe Valkyries. Here, write code 24 Movers and gold medalist, who serve the largest Russian-speaking social network with hundreds of millions of users. “VKontakte ” earns about $ 10 million a month, and estimates its value approaching $ 2 billion

Duras does not like to appear in public occasionally puts their photos (look past the camera), and hardly talks to the press. Why, if you can appeal directly to the 2,712,065 readers of his blog? Rights holders Durova hate for what “VKontakte ” allows to share movies and songs, and game developers idolize him because he gives them access to the audience.

“For me, money is totally virtual units that are meaningless to discuss in isolation from the real important things. Participate in this race to anyone to prove anything, it seems objectively exercise in futility, though this is not the worst kind of sport ” — so began to interview the person whose name appears at the bottom of each page of social networks.

Many programmers dream of running a startup, to convene there classmates and subjugate half Runet, but it turned out that only Durova. How?

School for a hacker

The son of a professor of philology began to walk to school in Turin, where his father worked for several years. Back in St. Petersburg, he studied in a regular school, but not for long — too often the teachers explained that they are incompetent. But in the experimental classes the Academic Gymnasium, such as Durov, typed the whole gang. Because of problems with eyesight, he was sitting behind the first desk, often alone, received high marks and was known as an erudite — but he eclipsed the star class, the winners of contests. The elder brother Nicholas, a talented scientist, also won a competition in mathematics and computer science.

Duras learned to program and to start the screensaver has replaced all the school computers with the Windows logo 95 on a photo with the signature science teachers «Must die». The teacher repeatedly deprived him of access to computers, but every time Durov breaking passwords. “With him always had to communicate with suspicion, it was not clear, he says, sincerely or mocks you, ” — recalls his classmate Alex Dievskaya.

After the prom Durova asked who he sees himself in the future. He joked, “Internet-totem. ”

But when the St. Petersburg State University student’s website Philology flowed from around the essays University, the jokes stopped. E-library was not the main purpose of Durova — he wanted to unite the students studying in different parts of the city, giving them a platform to exchange ideas and opinions. Leaving exist in the free mode, he opened a forum of university and began to untwist it. Sections of the portal site for faculty, he initiated a verbal fight, often disputed by different nicknames himself, and to the top of organized contests of design and beauty.

Durov soon applied for a scholarship by Vladimir Potanin, and participated in role-playing game, during which standouts selected from those who are endowed with leadership qualities. “Paul spoke softly, but somehow fell silent and began to listen, — says Yuri Lifshits, winner of the International Mathematical Olympiads, and later worked at Yahoo. — There were all bright, but even in simple situations, such as choice of venue “potanintsev, ” his opinion was one of the key. ” Durov received a scholarship for three consecutive years.

By the last course he knew that he wanted to do their projects, rather than translating from English (both ran the diploma). “When I looked at the people who every day go to the routine work in office, I could not imagine such a scenario in my life — tells Durov. — Management of Internet projects, organization of academic activities accustomed to independence and the idea that I have no immediate superiors. ” Diploma he never picked up, not wanting to once again deal with the bureaucracy.

Among other ideas Durov thinking about social networking, where people perform under real names. And at this point in his mailbox a letter from the fallen man with whom he lost touch for seven years ago.

Secure communication

Vyacheslav Mirilashvili read an article in “Business Petersburg ” and could not believe his eyes — his classmate Durova was praised as the creator of the forum State University. Vyacheslav studied at American University, Tufts, and he saw how social networks are gaining popularity, especially Facebook. Mirilashvili found Durova address, and soon the friends discussed the prospects of social networks for students. “The idea of ??finding classmates and fellow students seemed relevant to us personally with Vyacheslav — recalls Durov. — Because we could never meet again. ”

Start them in a moment, their chances of success would be significantly lower. In spring 2006, the number of users in the Russian social networks grew rapidly, but still counted in thousands of people. Even the largest — “Classmates ” — nedotyagivaet up to a million users. Globally, Facebook sat in 10 times more people, but to the capitalization of a billion dollars, of which Sean Parker in the film “social network ” seduced Mark Zuckerberg, was far away.

Their money to start a social network Vyacheslav was not found. He borrowed them from a company of his father, known in the 90s businessman Mikhail Mirilashvili. Friends have established a company in which the control remained with Mirilashvili Jr., and minority shareholders were his friend Lev Leviev and Durov. However, the latter kept a pack of voting shares, enough to cancel the unwanted solutions. The fact that a brand can be associated with the ambiguous name Mirilashvili Sr., Durova was not embarrassed. He began to adapt the idea of ??Facebook and add your own functions.

“Please register on this site! You are very help me! ” — Pleaded with each other, students of Minsk universities. A few day in November an unknown network “VKontakte ” attracted more than 2,000 users. The reason — a competition that came up with Paul Durov. The one who invited the most friends, gave to the iPod.

During the first year “VKontakte ” received 3 million users. People are attracted by the opportunity to look for friends and celebrate them in photo albums, make appointments, download music and video. “Paul, in contrast to most programmers, knew what he wanted from life and school and college students as it looks in design — explains Oleg Andreev. — He could see through the eyes of a person who has an old browser and slow Internet. ”

A matter of life and death for “VKontakte ” was the load on servers — for example, a permanent freeze triggered an outflow of users of Friendster, the second largest global social networks at the time. Durova was lucky — his brother Nicholas, a doctoral korpevshy at the Mathematics Institute at the Max Planck Society, managed to find time to optimize the load on servers.

But the main problem was the fact that “VKontakte ” demanded millions of dollars — to purchase new servers, their support and recruitment. Shareholders do not have their own funds and borrow more than would not. And then just to “VKontakte ” knocked fund DST. “Our project is fundamentally different from other start-ups as well as increased exponentially, with no advertising — says Durov. — Yuri Milner offered more than the others and asked for less. At the same time he himself took the initiative and came to us. ”

Founder DST, the oligarch Alisher Usmanov partner and best-known Russian Internet investor Yuri Milner known ability to please the owner of a promising business idea. Another feature of the venture capitalist — non-interference in affairs of the company, where he has invested (as long as things go well). “Milner always admired Durov, said he was a genius and so on — says a former top manager of the company, which invested in DST. — It then became his favorite Zuckerberg, and then reigned Durov. ” One way or another party to bargain, and bought a 24.99% DST “VKontakte ” for $ 16.3 million

Gradually it became clear that it is impossible to increase spending on an expanding video and photo hosting and in this case to delay the beginning of income. Durova had to compromise. “VKontakte ” by all means refrain from advertising, but allowed to increase personal rating by paying SMS. Later they began to sell virtual currency for real ruble. The public also provided service “gifts ” — to pay and send a virtual card thing or another.

But the revenue of several million dollars not allowed to pay back the site, and in the summer of 2008 Durov concluded the first advertising contract. Six months later, he began taking “tax ” from the creators of social games that earned their audience “VKontakte “. Now, it included not only the students of elite universities.

Scandal content

“This 30 million criminals and accomplices are known! — Scolded users “VKontakte ” director movie company “Amedia ” Alexander Akopov. — All can not be put in jail, but 10 000 — you can! “Akopov got against Durova on, because that actually contains the largest repository of pirated content in Russia. About half of the video displays in runet have to “VKontakte ” and told several owners — and it’s competitive edge social network.

Duras considered freedom of information an organic feature of the Internet, but to appease the owners, he again had to make a deal with their own convictions. “VKontakte ” gave the owners the ability to remove the video and offered to promote their pages. First under the corporation standouts bent 20 Century Fox, but the others are in no hurry to follow. For example, providers, members of the group Virgin Media, shut down its customers access to social networks.

On placement of shares on Western stock exchanges with such an approach to content can not imagine. “It is unlikely IPO« VKontakte “may not resolve all the issues of pirated content to the right owners. I do not want to use the word ‘impossible’, but this is a very serious issue ” — said the representative of one of the international banks, participating in the IPO« Yandex. ” It seems that this was one of the reasons for the campaign to purge the ranks — now join the network is by invitation only friend, who must specify the mobile phone newbie. And by 2012, “VKontakte ” promises still run a “system of preventing the spread of dangerous content, ” including pornography.

Cleaning does not reduce the flow of users. “VKontakte ” ahead of Russian-speaking segment of Facebook, «Classmates ” and “My World ” by the number of users and traffic. More than half the revenue received from advertising network — Durov refused banners, making a bet on contextual ads. “Strategy ” VKontakte “does not consist in squeezing ARPU (revenue per user), and increased user base, ” — he said.

But the opportunities for growth user base “VKontakte ” is not infinite. If Facebook in English can be increased by billions of users, Durov chose Russian-speaking audience is three-quarters (170 million speakers on in Russian has 135 million accounts). What will come up with a gang of Excellence?

In Durova has an answer to this: “My dream — to turn the national inferiority complex, proving that the products of Russia may be massively in demand around the world. ” Judging by public statements of top managers in the near future “VKontakte ” will expand into the European market. As the most likely object of attack “VKontakte ” was referred to Germany, where local social networks are crushed Facebook. Example Orkut, winning all of Brazil, shows that Facebook can be overcome by ingenuity and understanding of the needs of people in the country.

If you have a battle-worthy team of programmers, why not take a chance? “It may be that in order to achieve our goal of service ” VKontakte “will need to change beyond recognition or our team will generally create a new product. But sooner or later it will be done “, — says Durov.

Sounds nice, but does see the future “VKontakte ” its other shareholders?

Popular Botany

When Dmitry Grishin, CEO Group (so called former fund DST), said recently that he considers the opportunity to combine “VKontakte ” with “My World ” and “classmates “, the market was shocked by the news. Of course, many people knew about the long-standing dream Group, but few believed that it will come true. “Strategically, for us to properly acquire control in a social network [ ” VKontakte “], and even better to buy 100% “, — said Grishin.

Duras immediately okorotil it in his blog, saying that even respected shareholder value catches up with such statements Group shares on the London Stock Exchange, but of no merger of the question. A source close to shareholders “VKontakte “, confirmed that much sense to pour “VKontakte ” with other social networks do not, because it is a large non-public company that can “ottyuningovat ” for an IPO and sell shares more expensive. “Durov — this is really key man, — said Leonid Boguslavsky, head of the board of directors of the fund Ru-Net. — The company is very much dependent on Paul, and if he leaves, she may have problems. ”

To confirm whether this is enough to look into the house with Singer Valkyries and the globe. Duras has surrounded himself with like-minded people. Commercial services headquarters there — some programmers who are prohibited from drinking, smoking and improve each other’s voice. Key posts held by his college friends with whom they hang out in our St. Petersburg State University in a closed group of “Mafia “. Brother Nicholas took over as technical director.

This Masonic circle gold medalists creates a product that is well earned the other shareholders. Last year, the revenue “VKontakte ” was $ 94 million, and in 2011 it is planned to double it. In November 2010, Group bought additional 7.5% shares of “VKontakte “, based on an assessment of the company at $ 1.63 billion, and in April this year, issued a statement that evaluates the social network at $ 1.84 billion

Durova strategy worries more than a list of those who become richer at the expense of “VKontakte “. In the words of his favorite writer, the owner of a startup incubator Y Combinator Paul Graham, it’s silly to think that “botany ” did not want to be successful — they want to. But even more, they tend to be the most clever. What may be the best evidence of influence on the minds than a signature, “Paul Durov ” on each page of the network, which caught a hundred million people?

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