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Jan Koum | The inspiring success story of the co-founder of WhatsApp



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Jan Koum is a Ukrainian American businessman and computer programmer. He is the co-founder and ex-CEO of WhatsApp. As of today, Koum’s net worth is estimated at $10.4 billion. He escaped the U.S.S.R. in 1992 and moved to the United States. Even though he faced extreme poverty, Koum built a billion-dollar company with Brian Acton within five years. He also taught himself computer programming. Koum’s story is very inspiring to entrepreneurs all around the world. Here’s his incredible success story. 

Early life and struggles

Jan Koum was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 1976. His father worked in construction while his mother was a housewife. In 1992, he and his mother and grandmother moved to Mountain View, California. He was 16 years old at the time. A social support program helped the mother and son duo to get a small two-bedroom apartment. To make ends meet, Koum’s mother worked as a babysitter while he took up the job of a janitor at a grocery store. In 2000, his mother died after a long battle with cancer.

At 18, Koum showed interest in programming and taught himself how to code. He also enrolled at San Jose State University. In his first year, he worked as a security tester at Ernst & Young. To gain more exposure, he joined a computer security group called w00w00. During this time, he met Brian Acton, his future business partner. In 1997, Yahoo! hired him, and he dropped out of college. For nine years, Koum and Acton worked at Yahoo! together. In 2007, both quit and traveled around South America for a year. After their trip, both of them applied on Facebook but were rejected. Little did they know that Facebook would buy their company for billions of dollars a few years later. 

Creating WhatsApp

In 2009, Jan Koum met up with a friend and discussed Koum’s idea for a new app. On his birthday, he legally established WhatsApp Inc. in California. With the help of a Russian developer, he built the front-end of the messaging platform. Initially, the app was not popular. However, after the launch of push notifications, WhatsApp started gaining users. Soon, he convinced Acton to join the company. In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for US$19 billion.

Jan Koum and Brian Acton: Founders of WhatsApp - InsightsSuccess
Jan Koum and Brian Acton

By 2015, WhatsApp became the most popular messaging app in the world and currently has over 2 billion users worldwide. “We won’t stop until every single person on the planet has an affordable and reliable way to communicate with their friends and loved ones,” Koum said once. Today, Jan Koum’s net worth is around $10.4 billion. After leaving WhatsApp, Koum and his wife started an organization for their three charities. The couple has donated 1 billion dollars to philanthropic causes. 

Jan Koum, with a net worth estimated to be $9.8-$13.7 billion, donated $2 million to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) campaign. Koum is now the fourth largest Facebook stockholder, with a fortune worth around $5.8 billion. He was runner-up at the 8th Annual Crunchies Awards in 2015 in the Founder of the Year category. Also, at no. 62 under the Forbes List of the 400 Richest Americans in 2014.

Lessons we can learn from Jan Koum’s story

From immigrating to the United States and facing extreme poverty to creating the most used mobile messaging app in the world, Jan Koum’s hard work and determination paid off. His incredible success story is a source of motivation for entrepreneurs and business leaders worldwide. In addition, he is also an example of how to create a positive impact on the planet. With hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. You need to keep believing in yourself and work hard towards your goal. 

Also read: Matt LeBlanc | The success story of the ‘Friends’ star and comedian

What is Jan Koum's net worth?

As of July 2021, his net worth was estimated at $10.4 billion.

When did Jan Koum create WhatsApp?

In February of 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp in California.

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