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John Koum, one of the co-founders and CEO of WhatsApp, was born in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 24, 1976, and sold WhatsApp to Facebook for $19 billion in 2014. He is now one of the 100 richest people in the world with a fortune of $10.4 billion.
WhatsApp history is an emotional and inspiring story. Let's get started and review how WhatsApp transferred from a simple idea to the most popular messaging app in the world.
Who Is the Founder of WhatsApp “John Koum”?
John Koum was born on the outskirts of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Living as a Jew and a villager was not easy during the Soviet era. He was living in a house that had no electricity and drinkable water, and the temperature rarely rose above zero degrees. They did not even have a telephone in their house because they were tapped by the government. In this way, John Koum had a difficult childhood.
To end this situation, the family decided to immigrate to the United States. John Koum, together with his mother and his grandmother immigrated to California in 1992. They started their new life in a two-room apartment with a social assistance program.
As a child, John began reading computer manuals that he had bought from second-hand bookstores. Over the years, John became interested in programming. His mother was also a babysitter, and John Koum worked in a supermarket. When everything returned to normal, her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
It was during this period that he became interested in software and enrolled at San Jose State University. He also worked as a security tester at Ernst & Young company.
John lost his father in 1997. His mother died of cancer in 2000. There was no one left. John left college in 2000 after the death of his mother, but he learnt computer science from the guides and conversations used in chat hackers. After six months working at Ernst & Young, he was hired as an infrastructure engineer at Yahoo.
Then, one of his co-workers at Yahoo, Brian Acton, who was five years older than John Koum, became his coach and best friend, and helped him get through this difficult time.
The two friends worked at Yahoo for 9 years and learnt a lot during those years. They experienced the best and the worst periods of Yahoo together! At the end of that nine years, John Koum and Brian Acton left Yahoo in September 2007 and took a year off.
After a while, John Koum applied to Facebook for a job but it was turned down. At the same time, Brian Acton's request was rejected by both Facebook and Twitter. With their savings, they traveled to South America and tried their luck with new projects. This was the beginning of WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Idea Was Born
In January 2009, John Koum bought an iPhone. When he first saw the App Store, which was only 7 months old, a brilliant idea came to his mind.
He met a friend named Alex Fishman and told him his idea and then the two friends started working on it. Since the whole process does not work without an iPhone developer, Alex introduced John to a developer named Igor Solomnikov, whom he had found from RentACoder.com.
Although the idea was so new at that time, but John Koum outlined three definitive rules for continuing WhatsApp from the beginning:
- There will never be ads in the app.
- It will provide a good user experience.
- The user's private information will be secure, messages will not be saved.
WhatsApp was born on February 24, 2009 in California. The team was completely disappointed with the situation when the program had many problems. On those hard conditions, John lost hope once and began looking for another job. But his friend and partner Brian Acton encouraged him and told him to wait a few more months.
A few months later, John integrated notifications into WhatsApp. When users updated their status, their friends could be notified of these updates, and suddenly WhatsApp became a popular app.
The Second WhatsApp Update Was Released
They soon released the second WhatsApp 2.0 update. This turned WhatsApp into an instant messaging app. Therefore, the first version focused on status updates, then the second WhatsApp update on instant messaging. It can be said that WhatsApp we are using today is the most advanced form of the second version.
The program was downloaded by more than 250,000 people and gradually began to grow. Brian Acton was still unemployed, and John Koum invited him to work on WhatsApp. Since John was the creator of the WhatsApp idea, he had a bigger share.
At the time, Red Rock Café in Mountain View was used as WhatsApp office. Then, they received a $250,000 investment from their former Yahoo co-workers.
The app, which had been remained in Beta version for months, was launched in November 2009 on the App Store for iPhone only. Later, thanks to a software developer named Chris Pfeiffer, the Android version was also developed.
A small office was rented to continue working. There was not even a sign on the door of the office. For several years, the two founding partners, John Koum and Brian Acton, spent the most amount of money for sending confirmation messages to WhatsApp users. However, the monetary nature of the WhatsApp application helped them to cover the costs of that time. Sometimes, they changed the program to free version and accelerated its growth.
WhatsApp became one of the top 20 US apps in the App Store in 2011.
WhatsApp Found an Invester
Jim Gutz had been following the WhatsApp situation closely from Sequoia Capital. It took a long time for Goetz to reach Koum and Acton. Finally, Gotz met the founders at Red Rock Cafe, and in April 2011 received a $8 million investment from Sequoia Capital, asking that no ads should be placed on WhatsApp.
By 2013, WhatsApp had 200 million users and 50 employees. It did not take long for WhatsApp to surpass its main competitors and reached 1 billion users.
Facebook Bought WhatsApp
And of course, this success was not remained hidden from the eyes of Mark Zuckerberg!
Zuckerberg first contacted the founders of WhatsApp in January 2012. After several sessions in Silicon Valley, Mark suggested to John Koum to join Facebook.
In April 2014, WhatsApp officially joined the Facebook family. It cost exactly 19 $ billion! John Koum, a 37-year-old Ukrainian who founded WhatsApp, did not want to sign the contract to sell his messaging service at the headquarter of his company.
He signed the contract of sale while leaning against the windows of an abandoned building that was formerly a social services office and once stood in line with his mother to receive food with a public aid card.
WhatsApp is becoming more and more popular. Although its founders do not have a good relationship with Facebook right now, the app is getting more reliable almost every week with the released.