Axel Neff

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Axel Neff
David "Axel" Neff

CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materSwarthmore College
Years activeOctober 2008–Present
Known forCo-Founding Digital Fortress LLC in 2012
Co-Founding Telegram LLC in 2013

David "Axel" Neff is an American businessman, best known for his role as the former Director of International Operations[1] of the Russian social network Vkontakte[2] and as a co-founder of mobile messaging platform Digital Fortress, used to create the instant messaging application Telegram Messenger. Neff was a co-founder of the US based Telegram LLC,[3] which was responsible for the creation of Telegram Messenger. He served as the head of subsidiaries for both companies, Durov LLC[4] and Digital Fortress LLC[5] respectively. Neff was also the director of Pictograph LLC[6] and Telegram LLC.[7]

Early life[edit]

Neff is from Buffalo, New York[8] and graduated high school from Springville Griffith Institute.[9] From there he moved to Philadelphia, PA to attend Swarthmore College, where he studied engineering[10] and played football.[11] He graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Economics.[12]


Involvement in VK[edit]

While in College, Neff became acquainted with Ilya Perekopsky and Pavel Durov through a mutual friend at Saint Petersburg State University.

From July 2008 to April 2014, he served as the Assistant Director of International Operations.[13][better source needed] He assisted with various global expansion efforts, VK operational matters in the US, and translation of the social network from Russian into other languages. He played a key role in acquiring the domain name which VK transitioned to in 2012.[14] He was also involved in VK expansion by sending contest winners iPod Nano[15] promotion from Colden, NY.[16]

Digital Fortress LLC[edit]

Digital Fortress LLC was a company created by Neff in his home city of Buffalo, New York in 2012,[17] and co-founded by Pavel Durov. It is engaged in the management and financing of mobile applications. Neff served as the director of this company. Digital Fortress LLC maintained its headquarters in Buffalo, New York.[18] In early 2013 the company bought 96 terabytes of infrastructure from QBC Systems.[19] In April of that same year, Pavel Durov said that Digital Fortress was a cloud cluster, that was created for the benefit of startups from the Start Fellows.[20]

On August 14, 2013,[21] the company released its first experimental application, called Telegram. Telegram is a freemium instant messaging application for smartphones that was built using a new encryption algorithm called MTProto,[22] which was created by Pavel Durov's Brother, Nikolai Durov.[23][24]

Telegram affiliation[edit]

In January 2013, the news channel TV Rain reported that Neff's Digital Fortress company was working on a new project.[25] At that time, it was reported the first application to be supported by Digital Fortress would be called, for which a domain had already been registered.[19] Later this name was dropped in favor of Telegram.[26]

On August 14, 2013 the application was released on the Apple iOS platform. At the same time, a contest was announced to solicit developers to assist in developing the application on Android, referred to as "Durov's Android Challenge".[27]

Shortly following the release of Telegram, Durov publicly spoke with Izvestia stating that "Telegram, strictly speaking is not my project". In this interview he explained that the project he partially supported by investments was Digital Fortress, a cloud hosting platform for projects like Telegram among others.[28]

Three weeks after the launch of Telegram, it began to see nearly immediate success. Every day more than 100 000 new registered users began to appear on the network. Most of whom were from Arab countries.[29] A few months later in 2014, following the sale of WhatsApp to Facebook,[30] Telegram saw a major growth spike when nearly 5 million new users registered in a single day.[31]


  1. ^ "Mysterious Telegram Founder from Buffalo New York". Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  2. ^ "Russian Startups: Digital Fortress". Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  3. ^ "Pavel Durov has cloned Telegram". Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Durov LLC, Delaware Company". Delaware Companies. Archived from the original on 3 November 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Digital Fortress LLC - New York , NY - Company Data". Dun and Bradstreet.
  6. ^ "Pictograph follows Telegram". 26 August 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  7. ^ "D&B Credibility: Telegram LLC". Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Linkedin Profile: Axel Neff". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Springville GI Graduate". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  10. ^ "E90 Senior Design Projects 2002-2003". 8 July 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Linebacker Axel Neff leads the defense with 79 tackles and two sacks". Archived from the original on 5 August 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Neff Educational Background". Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  13. ^ "Linkedin: Axel Neff". Linkedin. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Vkontakte Changes Name". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  15. ^ "iPod Nano won on". Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  16. ^ "VK iPod Nano Discussion Board". Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Digital Fortress LLC Entity Information". NYS Dept of State Division of Corporations. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  18. ^ Швецова, Ксения. (2013-04-23). "Павел Дуров улетел, но обещал вернуться". Руформатор. Archived from the original on 2013-06-02. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  19. ^ a b Bertola, David. (2013-01-11). "QBC Systems lands contract to service Russian market". American City Business Journals. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  20. ^ Пеганов, Александр. (2013-04-22). "Павел Дуров не в США; запускает не стартап, а клауд-хостинг". Цукерберг позвонит. Archived from the original on 2013-08-25. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  21. ^ "Telegram Launch: August 14, 2013". 10 February 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  22. ^ "MTProto Description". Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  23. ^ Болотов, Юрий. (2013-08-15). "Telegram: новый мессенджер от Павла Дурова". Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  24. ^ Дорохов, Роман. (2013-08-15). "Американская компания Павла Дурова запустила мессенджер для смартфонов Telegram". Ведомости. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  25. ^ "Digital Fortress on TV Rain". 21 April 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  26. ^ "Дуров разъяснил происхождение слухов о новом проекте". 2013-04-22. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  27. ^ Агамалова, Анастасия. (2013-08-14). "Павел Дуров выложил в AppStore новый мессенджер Telegram". Ведомости. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  28. ^ "Telegram is not Durov's". 26 August 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  29. ^ Пеганов, Александр. (2013-09-08). "Телеграм на экспорт". Цукерберг позвонит. Archived from the original on 2013-09-10. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  30. ^ "Facebook buys Whatsapp". CNN. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  31. ^ "5 Mil New Users on Telegram". 24 February 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014.

Further reading[edit]