Another big social network, Telegram, is launching its own digital currency when Facebook's large cryptocurrency program is blocked by regulators.
According to three investors who recently passed with Telegram, Telegram has told investors that it plans to launch the first batch of money Gram in the next two months.
Investors said the company also plans to use the Gram digital wallet from 200 million to 300 million Telegram app users worldwide. They requested to remain anonymous due to the signing of a confidentiality agreement.
Telegram said that Gram will become a new online currency that can transfer funds around the world, in line with Facebook's Libra goal announced this year.
At the beginning of 2018, Telegram raised $1.7 billion from well-known investors, including some large VCs in Silicon Valley.
Unlike Facebook, Telegram is more low-key, compared to Facebook's announcement of its digital currency plan long before the token was introduced. Telegram's way of doing things may lead to questions from the government authorities.
Regulators are increasingly worried that currencies like Gram and Libra may be as useful to drug dealers and money launderers as Bitcoin.
The US authorities have taken action to stop some small-scale cryptocurrency projects on the grounds of violating securities laws.
Richard Levin, who specializes in cryptocurrency legal affairs at Polsinelli, said:
“Anyone who tries to build this token system must be cautious when dealing with regulators. I suspect regulators will pay close attention to such distribution activities.”
The Telegram spokesperson did not respond to the request for comment.
The company's founder, Pavel Durov, claimed to be a liberal. He fled Russia after clashes with the government and was forced to sell his first successful social networking site, VKontakte. Durov now travels back and forth between offices in the Middle East and Europe.
The Telegram app can send encrypted information, which makes it both popular with terrorists and popular with dissidents and protesters.
These characteristics make it unpopular with the Iranian and Russian governments, which have tried to close it.
Telegram promotes Gram in this way: this new digital currency will adopt a decentralized structure similar to Bitcoin to facilitate government regulation.
Telegram has stated that after Gram's release, they will be managed by a decentralized computer network, and Telegram will be unable to control the way and direction of these tokens.
The company said in a document sent to potential investors in 2017:
“A new era of economics that sells cryptocurrency goods and services is about to be born.”
In the field of cryptocurrencies, Gram's plan has been questioned. Many large VCs investing in cryptocurrencies have refused to invest in Gram.
Security researchers are also concerned about the security issues that Telegram has – and if it involves funding, these issues can have even more serious consequences.
But this did not prevent the well-known American venture capital Benchmark and Lightspeed Capital and many Russian investors from participating in the 2018 Gram fundraising activities. Investors invested $1.7 billion in exchange for Gram's future commitments.
Telegram promised in legal documents that it will issue Gram to investors or return funds by October 31, 2019. The company is now launching these tokens before the deadline.
According to their investor documents, some people will be able to sell their Gram immediately on a cryptocurrency exchange, but early investors agreed to hold it for a while.
According to investors, Telegram recently said that before the issue of tokens, the beta version of the Gram network will be released in the next week or two.
The company has high expectations for its Telegram Open Network, hoping it can carry new digital applications. For example, users can give rewards for comments they appreciate on a particular website, or make small bets on future events.
But before all this comes true, Telegram will have to face critics and skeptical regulators.
Cryptography currency analyst David Gerard said:
“I don’t know how Telegram will work out to meet regulatory requirements by the end of October.”