High taxes, bad healthcare, police repression, lack of culture, poor education… Telegram founder Pavel Durov wants you to know he really doesn’t like Silicon Valley and thinks living or doing business in the US is a terrible idea.
The St. Petersburg-born Durov, 35, is best known as a cofounder of Russia’s premier social network VKontakte and later Telegram, an immensely popular encrypted messaging app. As a self-professed vegetarian and libertarian, he gives many Silicon Valley tech moguls a run for their money when it comes to quirks – but outdid them all when he resigned from VKontakte in 2014 and left Russia altogether, saying it was “incompatible with internet business at the moment.”
He has since bought citizenship in the tiny Caribbean country of St. Kitts and Nevis. This week, however, he posted a rant in Russian seeking to disabuse aspiring Russian tech entrepreneurs from believing a puff piece about Silicon Valley made by opposition blogger Yury Dud.
The US is not a good place to live or do IT business. I’m convinced that anyone who wants to leave Eastern Europe must consider other options.
In his “Seven reasons not to move to Silicon Valley,” Durov brings up the fact that the US is a “police state” that not only leads the world in the number of people in prisons, but has also unjustly persecuted at least one of the protagonists of Dud’s film. Telegram also faced FBI pressure in 2016, he noted.
The healthcare system is “ineffective and expensive,” and it’s cheaper for many Eastern European immigrants to fly back for medical procedures. Americans are also fat, Durov argues, blaming widespread obesity on “poorly regulated food processing, a low culture of eating, and stress.”
Silicon Valley itself is “a few villages with limited cultural life,” while the nearby San Francisco is beset by high crime and a large number of homeless people. It is the only place where he was ever robbed in broad daylight, Durov notes.
Forget finding competent employees in the US, the Telegram founder added: due to a “low quality of secondary education” the US is mediocre at mathematics. Local programmers are “expensive, spoiled and often unable to focus on work due to the flow of extraneous suggestions and ideas.” So immigrants prefer to work with their own people, only to run into the 10-hour time difference with Eastern Europe or India. Why not set up shop in a time zone that’s closer?
Taxes in the US are astronomical compared to Eastern Europe or places like the United Arab Emirates, where they are effectively zero. The US is also the only country in the world that taxes its citizens abroad, Durov continues. He is only technically wrong, since only the African nation of Eritrea also tries to do so.
Last but not least, Durov calls the American market “overheated and overregulated,” representing only four percent of the world’s population. Whereas all the major internet innovation once came from Silicon Valley, today the digital frontier is in places like India.
“Moving to the US today is like buying stocks at peak price,” concludes Durov.
Durov may be speaking from personal experience – and he obviously has a grudge against the US authorities. In addition to his unfortunate 2016 foray to San Francisco, he has unsuccessfully tried to launch Telegram Open Network (TON) – Durov’s blockchain platform meant to both serve as a parallel “dark net” and host his own cryptocurrency – only to be blocked by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. His attempt to refund the investors in full was blocked last month by a federal district court in New York.
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