The Rags-To-Riches Tale Of How Jan Koum Built WhatsApp Into Facebook's New $19 Billion Baby
J Thoendell stashed this in Apps
Jan Koum picked a meaningful spot to sign the $19 billion deal to sell his company WhatsApp to Facebook earlier today. Koum, cofounder Brian Acton and venture capitalist Jim Goetz of Sequoia drove a few blocks from WhatsApp’s discreet headquarters in Mountain View to a disused white building across the railroad tracks, the former North County Social Services office where Koum, 37, once stood in line to collect food stamps. That’s where the three of them inked the agreement to sell their messaging phenom –which brought in a miniscule $20 million in revenue last year — to the world’s largest social network.
Unlike most startups, WhatsApp really does seem driven by a mission:
They want to bring affordable text messaging to every person on the planet.
That's a big idea -- one of only five ideas known to appeal to at least a billion people, alongside search (Google), watching videos (YouTube), making profiles (Facebook), and playing games (WeChat).
They have a great story, and they're already changing the world.
A few weeks ago I interviewed MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson, who has done a lot of research on how tech is changing the economy. He explained:...it's the fact that technologies can leverage and amplify the special talents, skill, or luck of the 1% or maybe even the 100th of 1% and replicate them across millions or billions of people. In those kinds of markets, you tend to have winner-take-all outcomes and a few people reap enormous benefits and all of us as consumers reap benefits as well, but there's a lot less need for people of just average or above-average skills.
Thanks to the internet, a few folks who had the right combination of skill and luck were able to create a gigantic business that spanned the globe in just a few years. And we're seeing this replicated over and over these days in ways that would have been hard to fathom in earlier generations.
This doesn't mean what's going on in tech-land is "bad", but if you think inequality is an issue that should be addressed, then it's good to understand one of the key roots.
In a winner-take-all world, WhatsApp is a winner.