The infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden who was granted
in the Russian Federation didn't even have to go job-hunting
before scoring his first job offer. Last week the prominent Russian
tech businessman Paul Durov, founder of Vkontakte (VK), a social
network site, extended an invitation to Snowden to join his
"We invite Edward to Saint Petersburg and will be glad if he
decides to join the all-star team of Vkontakte programmers,"
. VK is headquartered in Saint Petersburg, Russia's second-biggest
"No Internet company in Europe beats VK in popularity, after all. I
think Edward might be interested in working on the protection of
the personal data of the millions of our users," said Durov.
VK boasts that it has more than a 100 million active users.
), in May 2013, VK served roughly 47 million users in Russia, thus
) to shame with its decreasing monthly audience of about 11 million
in that country.
VK plans to secure 70% or more of the Russian social media market
and then focus on internation expansion.
Sounds like a great opportunity for Snowden, right? In fact,
Vkontakte was one of the potential employers we
Snowden should've considered.
However, the story behind Durov and Vkontakte is deep, and at
to say the least
. VK is perceived as one of the biggest hubs of pirated music and
video, including pornography. This year some of its servers seized
by police in Ukraine were found to contain child pornography. Soon,
VK might face serious legal risks due to
a new anti-piracy law in Russia
that came into power on August 1.
Moreover, the social network is perceived by some to be the target
of a future raid by agencies close to the Russian government. In
April, Durov was accused of being a driver involved in a minor
traffic incident in which a
police officer was bumped and injured
. (Because this is Russia, the event was captured by a dash cam,
doesn't answer many questions.) Durov, who says he was not involved
with the incident, refused to testify in court and instead left the
country. Even though the criminal charges against him have been
dropped, his current whereabouts are still unknown to the public.
A fan of
movies, the sharp-looking 28-year-old tech prodigy prefers black
clothes and showboat moves: In 2011, when one of the big Russian
(LON:61HE), was looking to expand its share in VK, Durov posted the
image of a middle finger on his Twitter account as an "official
answer" to the effort.
Life Advice from Pavel Durov (Excerpts)
- Never watch TV
- When choosing between foreign languages to learn, focus on
- Filter down your social media feeds to your field of interest
- Improve every day
- Spend less time on women and people who are dumber than you
- Never ever drink alcohol
- Have values that are higher than money
He also tossed a bunch of 5,000-ruble banknotes ($152) out of a
window at his office to see how people would react. He later said
that it was his response to what he calls "the cult of money."
"Money is overvalued, because producing things is more important
than consuming things, and what's on the inside is much more
important than what's on the outside," he once said.
Durov doesn't drink alcohol or smoke, and the VK site doesn't
run ads for either product group. He also doesn't eat meat and
prefers public transportation to luxury vehicles. Durov was
reportedly living in a small rental apartment (215 square feet)
close to VK's main office in Saint Petersburg before he went off
A supporter of the open source movement, Durov also donated a $1
million to Wikipedia in 2012.
He has famously refused to cooperate with the FSB (Russia's
successor to the KGB) who would like Russian opposition groups
blocked from using VK. In an open address he stated that the social
network will maintain neutrality in regards to political movements.
The VK founder and CEO is also a prominent investor: In late 2011,
, an initiative to provide grants of up to $25,000 to aspiring
technology entrepreneurs in Russia.
While VK remains one of the biggest social media enterprises
overseas, the future of the network is fuzzy, especially given the
multiple interests at stake in the battle for the control of the
enterprise, not to mention the legal risks stemming from Moscow's
new anti-piracy law.
And if the social network has to surrender operations to
government-affiliated businesses, it probably would no longer be
the kind of place where Snowden would like to spend his days behind