Fact Never Knew About The Original Creators Of Whatsapp
The story of Whatsapp founders is very inspiring and intriguing and it is one every programmer needs to know.
Whatsapp founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton were colleagues at Yahoo, and their experience in Yahoo made WhatsApp one of the most popular and used messaging app.
The pitfall of Yahoo as a result of advertising was a lesson Koum and Acton learned and they imbibed the philosophy that ADVERTISING SUCKS for their company. Jan Koum interest was that their Whatsapp app will know little about the user, the system was designed so you won’t need to submit your name, gender or nationality. With no advertising and marketing, their company, Whatsapp Inc grew organically.
JAN KOUM’S SHORT BIOGRAPHY.
Jan Koum was born as the only child to his Jewish parents in Ukraine in 1976. His household was without no running water nor hot water to take a warm bath in the freezing cold. He best described his life in Fastiv, the hometown he grew up as,
“It was so run-down that our school didn’t even have an inside bathroom. Imagine the Ukrainian winter, -20°C, where little kids have to stroll across the parking lot to use the bathroom. Society was extremely closed off: you can read 1984, but living there was experiencing it.”
At that period Ukraine was a communist, political and anti-Semitic country in the Soviet Union. Jan Koum described his society and I quote him,
“I grew up in a society where everything you did was eavesdropped on, recorded, and snitched on. Nobody should have the right to eavesdrop, or you become a totalitarian state – the kind of state I escaped as a kid to come to this country where you have democracy and freedom of speech. Our goal is to protect it.”
In 1992, Jan Koum with his mother and grandmother migrated to California, the United States leaving behind his father. They lived in a small 2-bedroom apartment at the Mountain view, California. Koum assisted financially by sweeping the floor of a grocery store while his mom took up a babysitting job, yet they still lived on government support and food stamps.
Jan Koum lost his mom to cancer when he was 24, and his dad died in Ukraine in 1997. At high school, he was not that good in math and computer science, but at the age of 18, he got interested in computer and network programming. He taught himself by reading books he rented from a local used book store and then returning them when he was through with them.
Jan Koum then attended San Jose State University and worked as a security tester at Ernst & Young to help pay his tuition fees. Soon enough, while working as a security tester, Jan Koum met Brian Acton(co-founder of Whatsapp) and in 1997, Koum got a job as an infrastructure engineer at Yahoo while still attending San Jose State University.
One day Jan Koum was in class when David Filo, Yahoo co-founder called him requesting him to come to work immediately because they had server issues. This incident eventually led Koum to quit his college education, He even admitted that he hated school.
Koum joined woowoo, a group of hackers that focused on security. He even called on the group to help him when a Canadian teen launched a cyber attack on Yahoo. Brian Acton also experienced a financial setback in Yahoo as he lost millions of dollars in the dotcom boom era of 2000.
THE STORY OF WHATSAPP.
Koum and Acton continued working at Yahoo for nine years and then quitted their jobs in 2007 to explore a new adventure in the ever changing world of the social media. So they both applied for a job at Facebook and Twitter after taking a break in South America, but they were both rejected. Brian Acton tweeted about the ordeal. His tweets were,
“Got denied by Twitter HQ. That’s ok. Would have been a long commute.”
”Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next adventure.”
While they were still jobless and living on their savings from Yahoo, Jan Koum bought an iPhone in January 2009 and realized that the old Apple App store of then offered a potential market for applications compatible with the iPhone. In Alex Fishman’s house, at his kitchen counter, while drinking tea, they brainstormed about Koum’s idea of an application.
First Koum wanted an app that people will set status updates on their mobile phones. The status update would show whether you were on a call, your battery status, or where you are to those that have your contact on their phone’s address. Koum also told his buddy Brian Acton about the idea and they incorporated their company and called it WhatsApp Inc in California on the 24th of February,2009, Koum’s birthday.
But Koum and Acton later made up their mind that they will build a messaging app and Koum called it WhatsApp because it sounded like “what’s up”. Koum painstaking wrote the backend code of his app and synchronized it with the international dialing prefixes so that anyone could join Whatsapp in any country of the world. Koum’s Russian Friend, Alex Fishman introduced him to Igor Solomennikov, an iPhone developer, to develop Whatsapp for iPhone.
Once the app was developed, Alex Fishman’s friends would use the app to update each other, send and reply messages and that’s how instant messaging started.
In June 2009, Apple launched push notification, enabling you to receive notification when you are not using an iPhone
app. Koum updated his app so you would have a notification when your friend changes his/her update.
In early 2010, Koum and Acton launched the WhatsApp messenger app. Although there were not many messengers during that time apart from the Blackberry’s BBM, Skype, Google G-Talk, Whatsapp messenger grew more popular and was different from other instant messaging app because anyone could log in with their phone number.
WHATSAPP’S CHALLENGES AND BREAKTHROUGHS
It was challenging to promote Whatsapp, it crashed several times that Jan Koum wanted to give up but his buddy, Acton encouraged him to keep trying. Whatsapp shared office space with Evernote and their employees had to bring along their blankets to work in order not to get cold. With the help of funding from their ex-yahoo colleagues, WhatsApp active users grew to 250,000.
Koum and Acton received tons of emails from individuals requesting WhatsApp to be launched on Nokia and Blackberry platforms. Koum hired Chris Peiffer to develop the BlackBerry version of WhatsApp. Jan Koum and Brian Acton worked for the first few years for free and the cost of sending their verification message was a burden and to reduce the rapid growth rate of Whatsapp, Koum and Acton made users to pay for the instant messaging service, but that didn’t stop the progress of the growth of their user base.
Whatsapp went viral in 2013, its user base grew steadily up to 200million active users, and its staff to 50, Koum and Acton needed more funds. They held secret fundraising and with the money that came in they were able to double their staff and get a better office apartment.
Whatsapp popularity attracted the attention of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook‘s founder who first contacted Koum in the spring of 2012. Zuckerberg and Koum had series of meetings to come to a deal for the acquisition of Whatsapp but it was not successful.
On the 9th of February, 2014, Koum had dinner at Zuckerberg’s home and Zuckerberg purposed a deal for Koum to join Facebook’s board and also presented an acquisition offer of Whatsapp. Koum thought of the offer and finally signed the paperwork for the Facebook acquisition of Whatsapp. Facebook acquired Whatsapp for 19 billion dollars. This deal made Jan Koum and Brian Acton the newest billionaires in the block.
The Whatsapp group celebrated the Facebook acquisition deal with bottles of Cristal champagne. In Barcelona, at a Mobile World Congress, Koum celebrated his 38th birthday with Acton at Boujis nightclub. Jan Koum, a billionaire now says he does not want to be known as an entrepreneur but prefers bringing better products to the market rather than accumulating money.
Jan Koum donated about 556 million dollars to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, he as also donated secretly to undisclosed individuals.