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10 Cool Facts About WhatsApp Founder Jan Koum

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Yesterday, Facebook announced in a press release that they intend to acquire mobile messaging company WhatsApp for approximately $19 Billion, $4 Billion of which will be in straight cash and the rest in Facebook shares.

“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. “I’ve known Jan for a long time and I’m excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected.”

Jan Koum, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO, said:

“WhatsApp’s extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide. We’re excited and honored to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world.”

Since you guys have probably been hearing about it all over the news, we have decided to curate ten cool facts about WhatsApp’s Founder Jan Koum.

1. The conversation for the acquisition started two years ago. According to Business Insider, the deal was two years in the making. During the spring of 2012, Mark Zuckerberg started the conversation by calling Jan first. From there, they started hanging out, going out on hikes, eating dinner, but Koum did not subcumb to Zuckerberg’s charms. However, they remained in touch for the next 2 years.

2. He agreed to do the deal this past Valentine’s Day. On February 9, 2014, Zuckerberg invited Koun over for dinner at his house. He used this as an opportunity to propose the deal. Zuckerberg stressed to Koum that this would be more of a partnership than your typical startup acquisition. Koum left saying that he needed a couple of days to think about it.

Finally, on Valentine’s day, Koum went over to Zuckerberg’s house, which, by the way, interrupted Zuckerberg’s Valentine’s dinner with his wife, and agreed to do the deal. I guess when you’re dealing with $19 Billion, you ain’t got time to be courteous and wait until the holiday is over.

3. He hates advertising with a passion. Jan keeps a note on his desk from co-founder Brian Acton that simply reads, “No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!” It serves as a daily reminder to focus on their one goal of providing a pure messaging experience to WhatsApp users.

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4. Koum immigrated to the U.S. from Communist Ukraine when he was a teenager. A few years after attending San Jose State University, he got a job at Yahoo and worked there for nine years at first in systems security and then in infrastructure engineering. Yahoo was where Koum met Acton. In 2007, the two left Yahoo; and in 2009, they launched WhatsApp.

5. Yahoo Co-founder David Filo helped convince him to drop out of school.  Koum interviewed at Yahoo and got a job as an infrastructure engineer. He was still at San Jose State University when two weeks into his job at Yahoo, one of the company’s servers broke. Yahoo cofounder David Filo called his mobile for help. “I’m in class,” Koum answered discreetly. “What the fuck are you doing in class?” Filo said. “Get your ass into the office.” Filo had a small team of server engineers and needed all the help he could get. “I hated school anyway,” Koum says. He dropped out

6. WhatsApp has not spent a penny on marketing. The company spends nothing on user acquisition and doesn’t even employ a marketer or a PR person. Everything has been viral- WhatsApp’s growth is all based on happy users spreading the service to their friends.

7. Jan, 37, and Brian, 44, were denied jobs at Twitter and Facebook in 2009. After leaving Yahoo! back in 2007, Jan and Brian were on the search for jobs which was documented on Brian’s Twitter. Perhaps it all works out for the best that they find themselves getting paid billions by Zuckerberg now rather than having been just some regular employees there.

8. The deal to sell the company was signed on the door of a government handout building. Koum, Acton, and Jim Goetz of Sequoia Capital, the Silicon Valley venture capital who is invested $8 million in WhatsApp, signed the agreement to sell WhatsApp on the door of a white building that used to be the North County Social Services office where Koum used to stand in line for food stamps. Talk about a true rags to riches story.

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9. Koum once worked as a grocery store janitor in Mountain View, Ca to make ends meet. Koum and his mother stuffed their suitcases with pens and Soviet-issued notebooks to save money on school supplies in the U.S. His father never made it to America. When Koum’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, they lived off her disability allowance. It’s crazy how life turns itself around like that.

10. WhatsApp currently has only 55 employees. While co-founders Jan and Brian have become billionaires overnight, the rest of their employees will also benefit greatly based on the sheer size of the Facebook shares issued and the small number of employees they have- about $344 million per employee of benefits if you do the math, though how WhatsApp will split it is not yet confirmed. Talk about being a part of an amazing little company that made all it’s employees millionaires overnight.

Source: Forbes, Rediff, SkyNews, Businessweek

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