The recent news that Facebook bought WhatsApp for a grand total of $19 billion has been unavoidable; it has been all over the news and social media due to the App being bought for such a significant sum of money. The founder of WhatsApp, Jan Koum is now worth an estimated $6.8billion and his story is one that took him from rags to riches.
Jan grew up outside Kiev Ukraine, until he and his mother immigrated to Mountain View when he was 16 years old. His life in Ukraine was simple and his family didn’t have much money, when they moved to the US his mother babysat to make money while Jan swept the floor of a local shop to contribute to their income.
By the age of 18, Jan had taught himself computer networking and he joined a hacker group called woowoo on the Efnet internet relay chat network; he also spoke to the Napster co-founder Sean Fanning. Jan attended San Hose State University and also worked as a Security tester for Ernst & Young, he later dropped out of University and began working for Yahoo and he was relied upon to fix the server when problems occurred. In September 2007, Jan and his friend and colleague from yahoo left the company and travelled around South America.
In 2009, Jan bought an iphone and realised that the App industry was going to boom in the next six months. He decided to discuss the idea of an App with friends and eventually he decided he wanted to create and App that allowed user to have instant messaging with statuses beside their names. After a lot of hard work and help from old colleagues WhatsApp was introduced to the world.
WhatsApp was not an instant success and there were times where Jan nearly gave up on the App completely, however help eventually came from Apple when it launched push notifications. The App gradually became a form of instant messaging and the number of users quickly reached 250,000. Eventually WhatsApp went viral and Jan and his colleagues realised they could charge people for the App, by February 2013 WhatsApp had 200million active users.
To this day, Jan continues to work in understated offices that do not have a sign outside the door, when asked if he was put a WhatsApp sign above the door Jan stated ‘I can’t see a reason for there being a sign. It’s an ego boost. We all know where we work’.
Jan Koum’s story shows what can be achieved through perseverance and hard work, he took an idea and made it into the world’s most successful App. Before he created WhatsApp, Jan had applied for a job with Facebook and got rejected, the same company that bought his App for a grand total of £19 billion and made him a billionaire.
Some of speakers have had a similar journey to success, for example Jo Elvin came to the UK from Australia with very little money and got a job with TV Hits Magazine; her hard work and talent was recognised and she is now the Editor of Glamour Magazine.
Darren Campbell grew up in council estate in Manchester surrounded by gang culture, Darren’s friend was murdered when he was 18 and this tragedy forced him to take his fate into his own hands. His new attitude towards life and athletics resulted in him winning two Olympic medals and he will continue to be remembered as one of the UK’s best athletes.
Another example of a success story is entrepreneur and business speaker Fraser Doherty, Fraser started selling his Gran’s jam recipes at a farmers market at the age of 14. After setting up production, creating a brand and perfecting his recipes, Superjam is now considered to be an ‘Iconic Scottish Brand’ and is sold in supermarkets all over the UK.
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Copyright Speakers Corner 2017