Despite delay, Durov on track to launch his cryptocurrency in March

The Bell

The founder of Telegram and Vkontakte, Pavel Durov, is preparing to launch TON, his blockchain platform and cryptocurrency, for which Telegram raised $1.7 billion a year ago. A key meeting with major investors should take place within a month, sources familiar with the plans told The Bell.

Durov’s team had previously said that the TON project would be ready to launch at the beginning of 2019, but this has — most likely — been delayed by two to three months due to “the innovative nature” of the product.

In detail. At the upcoming meeting with investors, Durov will present a test version of TON, according to two sources familiar with the plans. The Bell also examined, TON’s most recent investor newsletter (obtained by the Telegram channel @Tgram), which describes the latest changes to TON and its cryptocurrency, Gram:

  • The TON development team is prepared for a launch in early 2019, although a two to three month delay is possible.
  • TON is 90% complete, and news about the platform will be released in February. TON’s September newsletter, about which business newspaper Vedomosti reported, said that the platform was 70% complete and that a test version would be launched “later this fall” (clearly, the timeline has since shifted).
  • The test network, Testnet, will be launched in January (according to information reported by @Tgram, Testnet is already up and running).
  • An audit of Testnet (to locate bugs) is scheduled for February.
  • A working version of the main platform will go live and be revealed to the public in March.

Neither Durov nor Ilya Perekopsky, who is responsible for business development at Telegram, responded to The Bell’s request for comment. But Durov wrote on his Telegram Channel on January 17 that “2018 was a great year for Telegram, but 2019 is going to be by far the most important one in our company’s history” and that “this year we are going to implement many long-awaited product changes.”

What else we learned. The TON team is studying legal questions in more than ten jurisdictions as it prepares for global expansion. TON Issuer Inc. is actively working with crypto exchanges in Japan, China and the UK. Trades, most likely, will be initiated in Asia, and Japan might be the first country where Gram appears.

Context. The timeline for launch of TON has already been adjusted several times. Originally, the launch of its test network was planned for the second quarter of 2018.

Background. Telegram raised $1.7 billion for TON at the beginning of last year from pre-sales of Telegram tokens. More than 100 investors took part. According to media reports, these included billionaires Yury Milner, Roman Abramovich, and major Silicon Valley funds such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark and Sequoia Capital, who, according to the Financial Times, planned to invest $20 million. One key feature of Telegram’s ICO is that, if the blockchain platform is not launched by October 31, all investors get their money back.

Two investors in TON, Wimm-Bill-Dann co-founder David Yakobashvili (who invested $10 million) and Qiwi founder Sergey Solonin (who invested $7 million) told The Bell they don’t yet have any news about TON. Yakobashvili, who was en route to the World Economic Forum in Davos, said he hoped he would see Durov there. One source told The Bell it is likely that Durov will attend Davos, but not as an official attendee. Durov’s name is not on a list, obtained by The Bell, of the forum’s attendees.

Alexander Amzin, Irina Pankratova, Irina Malkova

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