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Jan Koum: How I Switched From A Housekeeper To A Billionaire By Creating WhatsApp!!

Arriving in the United States with his mother at the age of 16 to flee the former USSR, Jan Koum made households in a grocery store to help him financially. Since then, the CEO of WhatsApp has come a long way! He has just reached the billion users with its app bought by Facebook in 2014 for the sum of 19 billion dollars! But Jan Koum has mostly become one of the richest men in the world with a personal fortune estimated at nearly 8 billion euros net of taxes. Here are in 5 steps, how he moved from housekeeper to one of the world’s biggest fortunes.

1. Starting from nothing

It’s not an obligation. Evan Spiegel comes from a very wealthy family. This did not stop him from being creative. But the disinherited childhood of Jan Koum is certainly an engine that explains his success today. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Koum grew up without running water and was subjected to a tense political climate, for which reason his family was forced to leave his native country.

“It was so run down that our school did not even have a toilet. Imagine the Ukrainian winter: -20 ° C and small children who have to cross the parking lot to go to the toilet … I did not have a computer until I was 19 but I had an abacus. “

“I grew up in a society where everything was tapped, recorded or balanced. When I was a child, I had friends who got into trouble for telling anecdotes about Communist leaders. “

When they arrived in the United States in 1992, Jan Koum’s mother became a babysitter and he made households. It is during this period that he takes one of the first decisions that will change his life: borrow a used book on computer coding, the discipline of writing instructions to develop programs, web pages or applications.

2. Training and gaining experience

Jan Koum is self-taught: at age 18, he learns by himself to code and develop network infrastructures like the Internet. He decides to go to university and do a job as a tester to detect computer intrusions and resistance of a network.

Whatever field you want to evolve in, keeping yourself informed of what is happening in this sector, doing watchkeeping, training you, is essential to the development of your business or microenterprise. With the Internet, books about your sector, everything is possible. Without a computer and with the will, Jan Koum has emerged from his position as a cleaning man to rise to the rank of network tester and much more. It was thanks to his visit to the company for which he tested the networks that he got a job at Yahoo as an engineer. He will leave the university to work for almost 10 years. It is also here that he will meet Brian Acton. His friend with whom he will base the application with the green logo.

3. Getting around

In business, getting around is quite natural. It is good to surround oneself that requires work and will determine the success. Quickly Brian Acton and Jan Koum become friends. Quickly, they evolve together within Yahoo until leaving together the company in September 2007. A few trips and a failure at the gates of Facebook later, the 2 men embark on business by founding their start-up, WhatsApp .Inc.


You may know, surrounding yourself with toxic people can genuinely plumb your business and defeat all your goals. It is important not to neglect this step. Jan Koum knows it. It was his best friend who in moments of doubt pushed him to persevere in the development of WhatsApp application code. He was the one who advised him to make improvements. They both had the same vision on several points, which only strengthened their friendship and achieved one of the biggest successes of recent years.

4. Create your own business based on your experience

Initially, Koum wanted to go to Facebook to work as an engineer like Yahoo, a company for which he worked nearly 10 years. His friend Brian Acton had the same approach but in 2009 when they applied, the two men were not retained. In spite of themselves, they joined the Facebook Reject Club (Facebook).

This is where the idea of ​​starting his own business appeared to him as obvious.

“I want to do one thing and do it well. “

It was his past in Ukraine and his life as an immigrant who inspired him when he developed WhatsApp.

“In fact, WhatsApp is a reflection of what I experienced in [the] USSR and coming to the United States as an immigrant. The experiences of our youth shape what we do later in life. “

As often, the great successes of a product or service correspond to a strong need. In the case of Jan Koum, the WhatsApp application is a way to communicate with everyone, no matter where you are. This is the problem he had when he wanted to exchange with his friends in Ukraine or Russia. The texting is paying and the Messenger solutions not as powerful as today. And then there is publicity and confidentiality. Two Koum-Acton team battle horses. The purchase of their application in 2014 by Facebook have not changed anything.

5. Sell it … while remaining independent


In 2014, for nearly $ 18 billion, Facebook buys WhatsApp, making Jan Koum multibillionaire. That contained in the 50 th place in the Forbes ranking of the richest people in the world, however, has not given up its independence. For example, he made sure that the application is free for all and without advertising. He also developed encrypted conversations. This means that Facebook can not recover this data. If this were the case, especially until this summer, this is no longer the case for European users. The rest of the world could follow.

“Our mobiles are so much an integral part of our lives that adding advertising like that is not a good idea. No one wants to be disturbed by the publication by talking with relatives. “

This vision of service is quite unprecedented in the world of social networks. Some have developed their business on the idea of ​​collecting data, a lot of data, then reselling them or at least exploiting them for commercial purposes.

In business, stand out from others can be a good strategy. Taking the market off against you may perhaps isolate you but in the right direction, that is, make you the pioneer. To have such a vision, once again, it is the day before, the research and the field that will make you an expert, able to detect the trends to come.

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The American dream. This myth is not one: hundreds of thousands of stories show that even with a poor and complicated family passive, nothing is impossible. Not even to become multi-billionaire before 40 years. The story of Jan Koum is powerful because he experienced the hard and ungrateful work of housekeeper. But it is especially strong and inspiring because it tells everyone that books, the Internet, are the source to learn, alone. Certainly obstacles remain, but failures are what allows us to surpass ourselves. When Jan Koum was not chosen to join Facebook, it was a failure, a disappointment. But ironically, a few years later, he is bought by the group and even sits as an administrator! You do not live in the United States, but you too can write your own dream. A dream French, Belgian, Swiss, Canadian, Ivory Coast etc. A dream that becomes reality and more. It is not Jan Koum who will say the opposite😉


Written by How Africa

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