Most of us mere mortals feel helpless upon getting rejected on a job interview, our ego takes a massive blow and we feel as if the world is ending. Imagine how hard it must be for people living in countries where you don’t get unemployment money.
Getting rejected can be a major bump in the road, especially if you’re getting rejected by Facebook, imagine how big a bump that would be! But that rejection dint get the hopes of Brian Acton and Jan Koum down, the two had applied to work at Facebook and Twitter in 2009 only to be rejected. But it’s a good thing they were because if they hadn’t been then the social media world wouldn’t have been the same. I mean imagine a world without whatsapp!
Koum and Acton founded one of the world’s largest mobile messaging platforms, which helped disrupt the telecom business; Whatsapp.
Jan Koum moved to the states from Ukraine at the age of 16, his family wasn’t financially sound and so he had to make it to the top the hard way. Koum got his first computer at the age of 19, that’s saying something! He went off to study at San Jose State University, he enrolled to study math and computer science, simultaneously working at Ernest and Young as a security tester.
Brian Acton was born in Central Florida and changed college twice before he finally graduated from Stanford University.
Whilst working at EY Koum met Brian Acton. The two met when Koum was posted at yahoo for work by his employer and the two hit it off quite well. They both describe the reason of their long lasting friendship as ‘low tolerance to bulshit’.
Koum in 1997 was persuaded by one of the Co-founders of Yahoo to come and work for him as an engineer. That is when Koum dropped out of college and went to work for Yahoo where he served as an employee for 9 years. This marked the beginning of a lasting friendship between Koum and Acton. The describe their friendship as an equally balanced one, with Kuam being the paranoid one who looks at the product and Acton being the optimistic one who looks at the finances. The pair decided to quit their jobs at Yahoo in 2007.
The two friends travelled around South America for a year after quitting work, in this time period they met many like minded individuals who would later on play some role in the creation of what we so generously call WhatsApp!
In 2009 Koum came up with the idea of developing an app that would send push notifications to users friends telling them what they were doing, the idea was similar to the Blackberry broadcast back in the day. However the idea developed into an instant messaging app which was released in 2010 for iOS users.
In October of 2009 Acton contacted several old Yahoo buddies and got together 250,000 dollars in seed funding. This earned Acton the title of co-founder and he received shares.
WhatsApp made less waves in the US than it did abroad, replacing it with the regular network messaging in Europe, the Indian Subcontinent and Africa. The major reason why it became such a success in that part of the world was because of lower cost of messaging.
Upon receiving positive growth figures by iOS users, Koum then hired an old friend Chris Peiffer to make the BlackBerry version, which arrived two months later, and eventually the release of a version for Android users followed.
For a certain time period WhatsApp became a paid app on the app store, this was primarily to prevent expanding too much too quickly, at that point there were some problems with the application itself, it crashed for most users.
In April 2011, the founders agreed to take $7 million from Sequoia Capital on top of their $250,000 seed funding, this allowed the app to expand itself and users were now able to share photos and videos with each other through the application. By 2013 WhatsApp was used by 200 million people worldwide.
The founders have never been PR kind of guys and are rarely in the news, in fact they were so low key that venture capital firm Sequoia had to roam around Mountain view where the WhatsApp office is located just to get a chance to bump into either Koum or Acton.
As of April, 2014, WhatsApp had over 500 million monthly active users, 700 million photos and 100 million videos were being shared daily, and the messaging system was handling more than 10 billion messages each day with India was the largest single country in terms of number of users.
Brian Acton responded that the reason to the apps success overseas was its simplicity and how it made the lives of users easy, “ In early 2010, we launched our first localized version of WhatsApp for iPhone. It included Spanish and German language translations, to name a couple. We felt from the very beginning that our product should be one that anyone could use no matter where they were in the world, and incorporating localized text was an obvious approach to that strategy. We found that every time we added a new language—or a new phone platform for that matter—we opened the doors to more users. Today, we support over 50 localized languages worldwide” – Brian Acton
On February 19, 2014, Facebook announced it was acquiring WhatsApp for US$19 billion, its largest acquisition to date. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp was closely related to the Internet.org vision “The idea, he said, is to develop a group of basic internet services that would be free of charge to use – ‘a 911 for the internet.’’
On January, 2015, WhatsApp launched WhatsApp Web, a web client which can be used through a web browser by syncing with the mobile device’s connection
Koum and Acton wanted WhatsApp to be different, Both men share a passion for hating advertisement and Jan even has a note from Brian on his desk saying “No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks”. It makes sure that the WhatsApp keeps it focus on its core functionality, messaging.
Since its acquisition by Facebook, WhatsApp has continued to grow by leaps and bounds providing its users with instant messaging and making lives of millions of users easy. There used to be a time when it would cost a fortune to text someone halfway across the world let alone think of calling them, but WhatsApp has played a very vital role in tearing down these communication barriers and is now the choice of messaging app for almost a billion people.