24 May 2019
Offering end-to-end encryption, messaging app Telegram now has around 180 million users worldwide. Photo: Reuters
Offering end-to-end encryption, messaging app Telegram now has around 180 million users worldwide. Photo: Reuters

Telegram eyes multibillion dollar ICO this year

Encrypted messaging startup Telegram will launch its own blockchain platform and cryptocurrency, technology news publisher TechCrunch reports, citing sources familiar with the matter. The initial coin offering (ICO) is planned to be launched in 2018.

The new platform, Telegram Open Network (TON), will be based on an improved version of the blockchain technology.

The cryptocurrency of TON will be called “Gram” and the platform will be natively integrated with many of the most popular messaging apps, cryptocurrency news website Cointelegraph said.

There are no official details from Telegram regarding TON, but a roadmap of the platform has been leaked online, showing that the minimal viable test network of TON will be launched in the second quarter this year, according to crypto-asset news website Cryptovest.

According to the roadmap, a stable version of TON network will be deployed, with the Telegram Wallet slated to be launched in the fourth quarter this year. The TON-based economy and additional services, including an exchange, a decentralized DNS, VPN and support for decentralized apps, will be rolled out in 2019.

Telegram ICO is to be launched around March 2018, with its token “Gram” going on sale for about US$1.2, cryptocurrency publisher Cryptovest said.

And a thawing of tokens will take place on a quarterly basis starting 2019.

TechCrunch noted that Telegram, in launching token sales, is considering raising “as much as US$500 million in the pre-ICO sale at a potential total token value in the range of US$3 billion to US$5 billion”, potentially making it one of the largest ICOs to date after Tezos, which raised over US$230 million in July 2017.

The ICO will require real fiat currency like US dollars for buy-in, not Bitcoin or Ether as others ICOs have to date, TechCrunch reported, citing sources.

With TON, Telegram aims to develop an entirely new blockchain, which appears to be like a cryptocurrency-based utility akin to WeChat in China, which offers a variety of services including messaging and payment mechanism, TechCrunch said.

Telegram’s messaging app now has around 180 million users worldwide, Bloomberg reported last month. It is popular with the blockchain community, “like right now, the entire Blockchain and cryptocurrency community just switched to Telegram,” Telegram co-founder Pavel Durov told Bloomberg.

Launched in 2013, Telegram boasts end-to-end encryption, which is proven to be useful for dissidents and ordinary citizens living under oppressive regimes. The encrypted messaging app has been under attack in several countries including Iran, where it accounts for 40 percent of the country’s internet traffic.

In an earlier interview with Bloomberg, Durov insisted that Telegram is not for sale at any price, because his users’ privacy is too valuable to risk: “Even for US$20 billion, it’s not for sale. That’s a lifetime guarantee.”

ICOs exploded in 2017, with over US$4 billion raised by startups through this new fundraising mechanism, which is seen as much easier than the traditional venture capital route.

Another popular instant messaging app, Kik, raised nearly US$100 million in an ICO in September 2017.

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Telegram co-founder Pavel Durov said Telegram is popular with the blockchain community. Photo: Reuters

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