Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Does capitalism work? Ask Jan Koum.

Thursday, 20 February, 2014

Jan Koum was born in 1977 and raised in a small village outside of Kiev. The family home had no electricity or hot water and his parents rarely talked on the phone in case it was tapped by the state. At 16, Koum and his mother immigrated to the US, where she took up babysitting and he swept the floor of a grocery store to help make ends meet. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, they lived off her disability allowance. When she died in 2000, the young Ukrainian was alone in America; his father had died in 1997. He taught himself computer networking by buying manuals from a used book store and returning them when he was done. He got a job a Yahoo but in his LinkedIn profile, he unenthusiastically describes his time there with the words, “Did some work.”

He left in September 2007 and spent a year traveling around South America. On his return, he applied, and failed, to find work at Facebook. In January 2009, he bought an iPhone and realized that the seven-month old App Store was about to generate a whole new industry of apps. His thinking was it would be cool to have a free messaging app where the login was your own phone number. Koum chose the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “What’s up,” and a week later on his birthday, 24 February 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California. Yesterday, Jan Koum signed the $19 billion Facebook deal paperwork on the door of his old welfare office in Mountain View, California. (Photo courtesy of Jan Koum)

Jan Koum

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Kevin says:

    Eamonn

    I wonder what he thinks about welfare, food stamps and the minimum wage?

    • Kevin, I think the answer is obvious. He could have opted for a life on the dole, but he preferred to create something of value instead. As regards his views on social welfare, I’m sure he pays his taxes. He might yet prove to be an important philanthropist, now that he has the means.