Jan Koum - A tale of Poverty, Passion, and Philanthropy

  • 9th Jul'21
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Imagine your life without WhatsApp now. Can You? No! We all have grown so dependent on this chatting platform that even spending a minute without it on the phone is unimaginable. What makes the story of Whatsapp more interesting is the journey of its co-founder and former CEO Jan Koum who literally started from rags to riches. 

For entrepreneurs throughout the globe, his journey is an inspiration. Let us tour you through his inspiring life which will help you gain some tips. 

 

Birth and Migration to The US 

Jan Kaum’s life was not as bright as it seems today. He was born in 1976 in a Jewish family in Ukraine. His father worked in the construction business and income was only hand to mouth. His mother stayed home to look after him. While in Ukraine, Jan witnessed a life that was no less than a prison. He experienced all the negative effects of growing up in a Communist regime. 

Considering the circumstances back then, his mother decided to move to the United States for a better life. But, even their resettling in Mountain View California did not change their condition of poverty. In fact, life took another negative turn. His father did not move to the US with them, so he was only left with his mother. Moreover, as fate would have it, shortly after visiting the US, his mother was diagnosed with Cancer. To meet their basic needs, the mother-son duo receives federal assistance. 

His childhood saw extreme poverty and struggle. But what dragged him to success was his determination and hard work. Koum was a quick learner and had wonderful adaptive skills. Two years after they moved to the US, he completely engrossed himself in learning computer programming. He got hands-on training in cybersecurity after he joined an elite hacking group there.

Though he went to college, but could not complete his graduation as he had to join Yahoo. 

 

 

Conceiving the concept of Whats App

 Young Jan Koum worked in the security team and it was at Yahoo that he met his business partner Brian Acton. The two instantly became friends. While technology was gaining momentum and various online communication platforms were springing up, Koum thought about how we can more easily communicate with people online. While he was a teenager, he could not communicate with his family as it was very expensive. 

Therefore, he was determined to bring an easy-to-use-cross-platform messaging application that made phone calls and texts easier and cheaper. He took this idea to his friend Alex Fishman in 2009, who helped him shape up his thoughts into concrete reality. He later met his friend Brian and discussed this idea with him and the same day the business was legally established as WhatsApp Inc. in May 2003. 

 

One Idea that changed their lives 

This idea took a sudden liking and by October, Acton got several of their colleagues working in Yahoo to invest in WhatsApp. Though they had inventors in the business, money was still an issue. Though from the beginning itself, it had a promising growth, it was costing them a lot of money. So, they put in their life savings and did not take salaries for a few months for themselves. Jan is a true leader, who led his organization on his terms and is considered as one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the world. He understood the difference between being a true leader and a manager. 

By 2011, money began rolling in and venture capitalists started showing interest in this company. But, the duo was skeptical about it. They also got an investment of 8 million dollars from Sequoia, which was followed by another 50 million dollars in 2013. They were aware that how Vision, Alignment and Mission will change the way you lead. 

Money brought some comfort and they upgraded their offices and amenities. By 2014, WhatsApp had around 265 million users throughout the globe. 

 

 

Selling WhatsApp to Facebook 

The company started gaining momentum but was soon sold to Facebook. They were mastering the convept of  risk management in finance when, in 2014, Facebook made an offer to the duo which they could not refuse. An offer with 19 billion dollars. For a few years after this deal was successfully completed, Jan and Brian remained partners with Facebook. Eventually, due to disputes on some fundamentals, they both quit. 

Jan and Brian were clear about their advertising policy of no ads, please. While facebook thought otherwise. This created a dispute and Acton left with a messy note while Jan’s exit was on a friendly note. 

After leaving WhatsApp, Jan runs an umbrella organization Wildcard Giving with his wife Tegan for their three charities. 

The journey of escaping poverty through determination and hard work is worth every struggle Jan has been through. 

 

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About the author:

Prachi Chouksey (Editor), Super admin

An artist by heart and a writer by profession, Prachi is a vivacious reader.  She believes in hard work and her dedication has never let her down. She puts her heart and soul in everthing she does. Though life has not been a bed of roses for her, she affirms that the best way to live it is to maintain an equillibrium between the tunes of life.  


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