Facebook’s Libra has made Telegram investors nervous, but they are now breathing sighs of relief. Oleg Jelezko, one of the lead investors in the Telegram Open Network (TON), is now confident that Telegram’s cryptocurrency will launch before Libra, gaining a significant advantage over Facebook’s virtual currency.
Jelezko is the Managing Partner of Da Vinci Capital, the Russian investment firm that co-led one of Telegram’s private sales. Although originally optimistic for the Telegram Open Network, Jelezko says that he watched the Libra announcement with “fascination and some degree of caution.”
“We wanted Telegram to be the first [ecosystem to launch],” he told an audience at a London-based event today. Rolling delays with ecosystem development caused real concerns Facebook could be first to market with the Libra cryptocurrency.
Da Vinci Capital co-led Telegram’s second round, which raised more than $1.7bn from a closed group of two hundred investors in April 2018. According to Jelezko, they syndicated hundreds of millions of dollars during the raise.
Although the TON was originally scheduled to go live last December, significant delays pushed the launch date back by almost a year. The mainnet is now expected to go live on October 31.
There’s a “horse race” going on between Telegram and Libra, Jelezko said, partly because they appeal to the same users. Although Libra has not been entirely fleshed-out, both projects aim to provide a cross-border payments facility, which can also act as a means of exchange in countries that are predominantly cash-based or have a lack of trust in their native fiat currency.
Libra unveiled its whitepaper in mid-June, following months of speculation. A month later, its co-creator David Marcus was summoned before a Senate Banking Committee hearing to answer questions from U.S. politicians. Earlier this month, the new head of FATF, Xiangmin Liu, told Reuters that the Task Force is watching Libra closely, over concerns that the virtual currency could be used to launder money.
According to Jelezko, Telegram is already thinking seriously about regulation. The company has introduced a requirement for GRAM holders to go through a KYC process before they use the platform. That will make it easier to comply with new legislation, such as the new FATF rules that came into force in July.
“Both coins have the right to become major tokens in the top-ten,” Jelezko said, but TON had a key advantage in that it could integrate directly into Telegram, a network with more than 300M users. Crucially, he added GRAMs have already been distributed, while “Libra doesn’t even exist yet.“