Way back in 1992, an immigrant from Ukraine came to the U.S. in search of some opportunity. This young teenager was accompanied by his mother and they’d barely had any money for their daily expenses. Due to the limited cash on hand, he used to save his old Soviet notebooks for schools and queued up with his mom for food stamps under government subsidy.
At the same time there was another guy who had lost a small fortune in the.com bubble and wasn’t close to finding something big. Now the friends have come together to disrupt the communication sector by merging a mobile messaging app that today has over 1.2 billion monthly active users with over 30 billion messages sent every day the friends. This journey is about Jan Koum and Brian Acton who founded the company together which is none other than the most popular mobile app currently in the world WhatsApp…
Jan is no stranger to failure and as a founder who had to go through his fair share of reductions by top tech companies including the one that eventually bought their servers only to become the most valuable messaging platform on the planet.
Jan was born in the rural areas of Ukraine this was during the Soviet era so being a Jewish and living in a rural area was definitely not easy. He lived in a house that did not even have electricity connection. Being in a country that mostly had a temperature below zero degrees, they didn’t even have hot water.
His parents also denied the usage of course because they were often tapped by the government. To worsen things more being financially unwell , they also had to go through a regularity of hardships as well. Hence, in an attempt to put an end to all the sufferings, Jan along with his mother and grandmothers decided to move to Mountain View, California in 1992. In the U.S. , they were helped by a social support program to get a small two-bedroom apartment.
During this time, Jan started learning computer network by reading manuals that he used to purchase from a used bookstore at the age of 16. He had also begun working as a cleaner at a grocery store while his mother worked as a babysitter. Just once, things began to look normal, another tragedy hit his life when his mother was diagnosed with cancer but he became more stronger and his adversities were only making him more resilient. In the next two years, he had fully trained himself all about computer networking and was all set to take the next step. This is when he gains a sudden interest in programming and got himself enrolled at San Jose State University along with that he also began working with Ernst & Young as a security tester.
After working there for roughly six Months, Jan got the biggest opportunity of his life where he got selected to work at Yahoo as an infrastructure engineer. Now this was when he was still studying at San Jose State University.
Yahoo Back then was just another start-up and was beginning to grow and since Jan loved what he was doing he dropped out of his college and moved ahead with Yahoo. However, the happiness was short-lived and his mother couldn’t out beat cancer for long and passed away in the year 2000. He was suddenly left all alone and that is when his friend from Ernst & young and Yahoo, Brian Acton helped him fight the loneliness by inviting Jan to his house for playing soccer. Together they went on to work with Yahoo for more than nine years. they got to intake numerous amounts of priceless knowledge and experience. Later in January 2009,
Jan bought an iPhone and realized that the seven-month-old App Store was in the process of launching a whole new range of apps. This gave him a brilliant idea although the idea itself was at very nascent stages. They were very clear about three rules:
- Their service would definitely not carry any advertiser.
- The service would have a satisfying experience and
- Keeping in mind the privacy of their customers, their product would not store any messages.
Additionally it would also maintain to deliver the product without any gimmicks or signs with endless amount of readability and rich experience. Having said that, Jan quickly got the name WhatsApp incorporated on his birthday that is on 24th of February 2009 in California. Now, as the world progressed, they figured that WhatsApp kept crashing or getting stuck at a particular point, this went on for a long time. It built up a great amount of frustration. Jan at one point even lost hope and felt like giving up and started looking for a new job but Brian helped him to motivate and got his act together and asked him to invest a few more months. And finally a few months down the line, help came from Apple.
They launched their push notifications which used to pin their users whenever they were using the app. By August 2009, WhatsApp had no significant growth. This time Jan persuaded Brian Acton to join the in.
Later, on October 2009, Brian contacted several old Yahoo buddies and got together a 250,000 dollars in seed funding. This made Brian to earn the title of co-founder and since then there was no stopping to this Tech phenomena.
By the early 2014, WhatsApp has witnessed humongous growth In its user base with millions of people across the globe using its messaging service. WhatsApp had never publicized or promoted itself anywhere and at organically growing numbers. By this time, it only had 55 employees over serving millions of people each day. Later the very next month in February 2014, Facebook declared that they were acquiring WhatsApp. It was the deal which is known to be one of the biggest acquisitions in the tech history.
Facebook acquired WhatsApp at a whooping 19 billion dollars and also offered a board member position to Jan in Facebook. Jan signed the Facebook take over contract at an unused building in Silicon Valley where he and his mother once queued for food stands in the city of Mountain View where WhatsApp was located!
Well the story of WhatsApp is yet another live example of innovation in true terms for everyone out there waiting for motivation. The journey of Jan Koum and Brian Acton is a lesson for every entrepreneur that capital jumping and marketing will not reap benefits, it is ultimately the product and service that automatically drives customers’ attraction without any need for paid publicity.
Well with billions of users addicted to WhatsApp style, it is undoubtedly a tech marvel of this era!!