WhatsAppâ€™s Founder Goes From Food Stamps to Billionaire
Geege Schuman stashed this in WhatsApp
The $19 billion deal to sell WhatsApp Inc. toFacebook Inc. (FB)Â started at Yahoo! Inc. more than five years ago, when Jan Koum became disillusioned at the way Internet companies were fixated on advertising.
He left Yahoo in 2007 with one of the companyâ€™s other engineers, Brian Acton, and started a company by 2009 that shuns advertising altogether. The strategy allowed them to concentrate on creating an easy-to-use messaging product instead of developing new ways to glean customer information for their marketing pitches, Koum said in a 2012blogÂ post.
â€śNo one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads theyâ€™ll see tomorrow,â€ť Koum said in the post. A hand-written note on the his desk reads: â€śNo Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!â€ť
Their approach paid off. WhatsApp amassed 450 million monthly users -- twice as many as Twitter Inc. -- who send billions of messages a day. Yesterday, Facebook Chief Executive OfficerÂ Mark ZuckerbergÂ bought their five-year-old company in the largest Internet deal since Time Warnerâ€™s $124 billion merger with AOL in 2001, a deal that will almost certainly make Koum and Acton billionaires several times over.
For Koum, 38, the windfall would stand in stark contrast to his years as a teenager, when his family relied onÂ food stampsÂ after emigrating from Ukraine. The experience of living in a country where phone lines were often tapped, instilled the importance of privacy in him,Â saidÂ Jim Goetz, a partner with Sequoia Capital Ltd., WhatsAppâ€™s lone venture capital investor.
The very same Ukraine that's under duress right now.