See This Guy? Jan Koum

jan koum

Time to say "WhatsApp" to a multi-billionaire who had a tough road to wealth.

It's easy to look at the history of someone mega-successful and dismiss their struggle because you didn't live it.

But imagine growing up without hot water. Or standing in line to collect food stamps. Or sweeping grocery store floors as a youth to help make your family's ends meet. 

Jan Koum LIVED this. 

Born in the Ukraine, his school didn't have an inside bathroom. And the winters were -20°C.

And even after immigrating to the U.S. things were still hard; he and his mother got by on welfare. But he had a fire inside.

He taught himself computer networking by purchasing manuals from a used book store -- and returning them when he finished. At 21, he went to college part-time and found a job at Yahoo!. But under pressure from his boss, he soon dropped out.

Several years later, he found himself unemployed and burning through his savings. After applying for a job at Facebook -- and getting rejected -- he felt he had no choice but to start his own business. 

It took a while, but his messaging app he developed began to gather some fans.

One of those fans was Mark Zuckerberg, who ironically played a role in Jan launching the app. Facebook purchased WhatsApp in early 2014 for $19 Billion.

And Jan Koum picked a symbolic spot to sign the contract to sell his company - on the door of the welfare office where he once stood on line.




John Lavallo57 Posts

John is Columbia Business School MBA with expertise in marketing, business leadership, and law. John is a successful entrepreneur who took his first company public. He currently resides in New York City.