Today we are gonna be talking about the CEO of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, who is currently the 62nd richest man in America and how he went on to achieve his success.
Jan Koum was born on the 24th of Feb 1976 in Kiev, Ukraine during the Soviet period. Jan grew up not even owning a phone because his father thinks they were been tapped by the government.(Not surprising)
They were living in such harsh conditions in Ukraine that they decided to move to America in search of greener pastures. Jan Koum and his mother moved to Mountain View, California in 1992 where they got a two-bedroom apartment with the help of a social support program.
His mother worked as a babysitter and everything was starting to take shape and become normal, but then it hit them. His mother was diagnosed with cancer and they began battling with that.
It took Jan two years to know everything he needs to know about computer networking, and after that he decided to venture into programming. Jan later got himself into the San Jose University where he was also working at Ernst & Young as a Security Tester.
In 1998 Jan Koum’s father died and his mother followed him by passing in 2000. At this period Jan was all alone and that was when his friend Brian Acton helped him by inviting him to his house to play games and all just to help him fight loneliness.
Jan Koum worked at Yahoo for nine years and he said that he hated advertising but still worked on projects that involved advertising in Yahoo, like their Panama in 2006. Jan and Brian decided to take a year off after quitting their jobs at Yahoo in 2007.
Jan had saved up about $400,000 while working for Yahoo and that was what they used during thier vacation. Later on they applied for a job at Facebook but got rejected.
Idea of whatsapp came up
After hours of very intense discussion between Jan and Alex, they finally agreed that for their plan to work they needed an iPhone developer and that was when Alex introduced Jan to one Igor Solomennikov who he found on RentACoder.com.
They began working on their idea and one thing they all agreed on was that their product would not support advertisements and would not store users messages.
Jan secured the name WhatsApp on the 24th of Feb 2009 which also happens to be his birthday. But there was a problem, WhatsApp kept hanging and crashing at some point and this frustrated the team.
They kept encountering issues that Jan at some point wanted to quit. But Brian came along and helped him boost his spirit by telling him to hang on just a few more months.
And a few more months was all that was needed to get WhatsApp up and running. The developers had this push notification which allowed them ping their users whenever they aren’t using an app.
Jan would update WhatsApp every time some changed their status and that would automatically send out a ping to everyone in your network. While that was going on, Igor introduced WhatsApp to his Russian friends and they started using it to ping each other.
WhatsApp 2.0 was released and it was even better as it turned into a instant messenger, before they could know what was going on, WhatsApp had already gotten 250,000 active users and that was when Jan realized he needed all the help he could get.
While Jan and his team were working on WhatsApp, Brian was still unemployed and even applied for a job at Twitter but got rejected. Jan then managed to convince him and got him to join WhatsApp.
An old friend of Jan called Chris Peiffer also created a BlackBerry version of WhatsApp.
WhatsApp was experiencing great success and in 2011 they were listed among the top 20 apps on the Apple’s App Store. WhatsApp was straight forward, simple and didn’t need so process for signing up.
After both parties agreed, Sequoia Capital splashed WhatsApp with $8 million.
Two years later WhatsApp reached a user base of over 200 million and had 50 employees. They later went on for a second round of funding from Sequoia Capital where they received $50 million at a valuation of $1.5 billion.
Jan while working with Yahoo learnt that people don’t really like being interrupted by ads showing up on their screen. So you might be wondering then, if they dont show ads, how the heck then do they make money?.
Well as a matter of fact WhatsApp makes it money in two different ways, first they charge iPhone users on first time installation. Secondly, Android users were charged a yearly fee.
WhatsApp’s success can be clearly seen from thier users number, in 2013 they had well over 400 million active users. One year later on 2014 they reported a 500 million active users which is an addition of a 100 million.
WhatsApp gets most of it users from India as they were said to account for 10% of WhatsApp users worldwide. According to Jan Koum, what kept WhatsApp where it is right now is it “No ads and No gimmicks rule.”
Months later Mark Zuckerberg made it clear to Jan that he would love WhatsApp to join their family. In February 2014 it was made official and Facebook acquired WhatsApp for a massive $19 billion.
Right now WhatsApp has grown and has exceeded the 1 billion users mark and is also known as one of the most valuable companies around.