Telegram Venture Check

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✊💬Telegram: The freedom activist amongst the messenger app. 

With its strong focus on message encryption Telegram has been known as the messenger app defending data privacy and freedom of speech. 

They have experienced immense growth during the last 4-5 years (from about 200M users to 800M in 2023), and just recently expanded on their features. 

They launched a premium subscription including a long list of new features for individuals, communities and businesses and most interestingly they added a payment layer in the form of an on platform currency “telegram stars”.

Enough reasons to dissect their business model in our weekly venture check.

💻 Today’s venture: Telegram 

🧩 Category: Messaging platform

🚀 Founded Founded by Pavel Dubrov and Nikolai Durov in 2013.

🤑 Financials: In 2019, Telegram raised approximately $1.7 billion through a private token sale to fund the development of its TON blockchain platform. As for their current user base, Telegram reported over 800 million active users worldwide as of mid 2023. The revenues from their recently launched premium service are not known.

📦 Their business model: A freemium, encrypted messaging service with a strong emphasis on user privacy

💜 Why we love them: 

  • …. because of their commitment to user privacy with end-to-end encryption.
  • …. because their innovative funding strategies and commitment to user privacy offer valuable lessons in balancing growth with integrity.

What customer is Telegram targeting?

Privacy-conscious individuals, businesses and groups seeking secure communication.

Customer Segments

🌍 Geographically:

  • Predominantly urban areas with high internet penetration.
  • Global reach, with significant user bases in Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East.
  • Popular in regions with concerns about government surveillance and censorship.
 

⚧️ Demographically:

  • Tech-savvy individuals aged 18-45
  • Professionals and activists who prioritize privacy
 

🛒 Behavioral:

  • Individuals frequently sharing large files or sensitive information.
  • Early adopters of technology and digital communication tools.
 

🧠 Psychographic:

  • Strong preference for privacy and security in digital communications.
  • Values freedom of speech and unregulated access to information.
  • Skeptical of traditional social media platforms.

How could a typical Telegram customer persona look like?

🧑🏻‍💻 Alex, a 35-year-old senior software engineer based in Berlin, epitomizes Telegram’s target customer. He values digital privacy and security, aiming to foster a secure online environment for his family and community. With a master’s degree in computer science, Alex is deeply involved in technology and open-source projects promoting privacy. He envisions a world where personal freedoms and digital privacy are upheld. In his free time, he enjoys staying updated on cybersecurity, exploring tech innovations, and engaging with like-minded communities on platforms such as Reddit and Twitter. Alex’s shopping habits reflect his preference for quality and privacy-enhancing products from brands like Lenovo or ProtonMail.

What JTBDs, Pains & Gains do Telegram‘s customers have?

⚙️ JTBD (Jobs to be Done):

  • Easily communicate with friends, family, and contacts
  • Quickly share photos, videos, and files
  • Maintain control over personal data and conversations
  • Join groups and channels of interest to stay up to date
  • Create and manage communities of interest
  • Facilitate group discussions and activities
  • Provide responsive customer support as a business
  • Promote products, services, and events as a business

 

😍 Gains:

  • Freely and securely communicate with others 
  • Ability for more creative expression and personalization
  • Easy access to diverse communities and channels
  • Manage and organize large group conversations
  • Simply provide a business communication and support channel
  • Pay and receive payment directly via the app

 

😓 Pain Points:

  • Concerns about data privacy and security
  • High costs of international messaging and calls
  • Limited file size and type restrictions in other platforms
  • Lack of control over message delivery and viewing (read receipts)
  • Limited integration with other platforms

What is Telegram‘s value proposition?

📦 Product Features:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Self-destructing messages
  • Text, voice messages, video messages
  • VoIP calls and Video conferencing
  • Share files up to 2GB
  • Group chats (up to 200K members)
  • Broadcast messages to large audiences
  • Cloud Storage
  • Multi-Device Support
  • Stickers and Emojis
  • Customized themes, stickers, animated emojis
  • Bots and APIs
  • Telegram stars on app currency
  • Business tools like customer support bots, channel and group analytics
  • Public and private community channels & group links
  • Real-Time Translation
  • Voice-to-Text
 

💝 Gain Creators:

  • No subscription fees, encryption
  • Custom stickers, themes, animated emojis and more
  • Public and private channels, group links
  • Advanced group admin tools, unlimited members
  • Business accounts, customer support bots
 

💊 Pain Point Solvers:

  • End-to-end encryption, self-destructing messages
  • Free unlimited messaging, VoIP calls
  • Up to 2GB file sharing, diverse file types supported
  • Optional read receipts, message forwarding controls
  • API and bot platform, extensive third-party integration options

🏆 Unfair Advantage:

Strong commitment to privacy and scalability through an open-source platform.

💬 Their hero message could be something like this:

“Concerned about data privacy in messaging apps? Enjoy secure communication and customization options with our feature-rich messaging platform. The ultimate choice for privacy-conscious individuals and businesses worldwide.”

How does Telegram make money?

💰 Revenue model: Freemium with optional monthly or annual subscription to Telegram Premium and in-app purchases using the Telegram Stars currency.

  • Subscription fees from Telegram Premium.
  • Revenue generated from sales of in app currency “stars” used for purchasing digital goods and services within Telegram’s ecosystem.

 

💸 Pricing Model

Freemium pricing:

  • Free core features
  • 5,49€/monthly or 39,99€/annually for premium

How is Telegram acquiring and locking in customers?

🍝 Their Secret Marketing Sauce:

Word-of-Mouth and Privacy Commitment:

  • Telegram’s strong emphasis on privacy and security sets it apart from many competitors. This commitment resonates strongly with users concerned about data privacy, attracting individuals and organizations looking for secure communication solutions.
  • Users who appreciate Telegram’s features and privacy standards often recommend it to friends, family, and colleagues. This organic spread through personal recommendations amplifies Telegram’s user acquisition efforts without relying heavily on traditional advertising.

 

Viral Growth via Shareable Channel and Group Invites:

  • Telegram allows users to create channels and groups that can be easily shared and discovered. Channels can have an unlimited number of subscribers, while groups can support up to 200,000 members. This scalability encourages users to create communities around shared interests or organizations, facilitating viral growth.
  • The invite system within Telegram makes it straightforward for existing users to invite others to join channels or groups, leveraging social connections to expand Telegram’s user base rapidly.

 

Open Source Bot and API Ecosystem:

  • Telegram offers an open-source Bot API and platform, allowing developers to create bots, integrations, and applications that extend Telegram’s functionality. This ecosystem fosters innovation and attracts developers who contribute to Telegram’s ecosystem with new features, integrations, and services.
  • The availability of an API also enables businesses and developers to integrate Telegram’s messaging capabilities into their own applications or workflows, further expanding Telegram’s utility and reach.

Where are their strength & weaknesses and what are opportunities & risks?

 

💪 Strengths:

  • Reputable privacy focus that strongly emphasizes data security and user privacy.
  • Open Source Bot API and platform fostering innovation.
  • Offers extensive features like bots, channels, and group chats.

 

😣 Weaknesses:

  • Less mainstream brand awareness than WhatsApp.
  • Less “professional” brand image as a business solution than other competitors.

 

🤩 Opportunities:

  • Growing privacy concerns and increasing demand for secure communication platforms.
  • Expansion of digital services with potential to monetize through digital goods and services using Telegram Stars.
  • Business integrations expanding the use in professional and business settings with enhanced features.

 

🚨 Risks:

  • Portrayal by the media as “shady” due to strict privacy focus and “freedom” philosophy.
  • Regulatory scrutiny with the risk of being banned or restricted in certain regions due to compliance challenges.

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