Four years ago, Brian Acton had recently quit his job at Yahoo, where he had taken on different roles for almost 11 years. He approached to the micro-blogging site – Twitter and the social networking site – Facebook with a prospect of a job, but was turned down by both the organizations.
During the same time, Jan Koum, an Engineer whose parents moved from Ukraine to the United States, when he was 16, was seemingly annoyed at the banning of cell phones at the Gym he went to. He often came back to missed calls that were important and at that precise moment, an idea was born.
The said idea was acquired by Facebook for a whooping $19 Billion three years ago, crossing the acquisition value of $8.5 Billion that Microsoft paid for Skype in 2011, to become the highest-costing tech start-up.
We are talking of none other than Whatsapp, an internet-using messaging service, that is making the headlines everywhere today, with it’s acquisition by Facebook for $19 Billion. Whatsapp currently boasts of 450 Million monthly users, with 1 Million new users registering every day. It is free for the first year of installation and then charges a minimal amount of $1.
Jan Koum, CEO and co-founder of Whatsapp, whose family struggled a lot when they first moved and had to live off food stamps for a while, emphasizes the two things he had in mind while starting Whatsapp. One, iPhones are the future and an “extension of who you are” instead of being just a device. Two, he hated the concept of revenue through advertising and hence decided to steer clear of it at all costs.
“Almost five years ago, we started WhatsApp with a simple mission: building a cool product used globally by everybody. Nothing else mattered to us. WhatsApp’s extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide,” he says.
Within the two years of it’s launch, in November 2011, Whatsapp became the number 1 paid app in the App Store with almost 10 Million Android downloads.
The best part is, both Brian Acton and Jan Koum prefer to remain very low key and do not wish be recognized as entrepreneurs. They still don’t have any fancy Wikipedia pages to account for and were found sporting flip flops and t-shirts at the company’s headquarter’s in California, when confronted by a journalist in July 2012.
“We’re not a huge corporation with thousands of workers,” said Koum, in the interview to the said journalist from El Pais, as he added that they prefer to “keep a low media profile, as a business and as individuals.”
In the same year, Whatsapp was awarded the Best Application Award at the Mobile Conference in Barcelona, which was received by their Marketing Executive as Jan Koum was reported as “being in a meeting”.
Whatsapp still continues to remain as the most downloaded application in 40 countries including European Union, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia with over 6 Million downloads in Spain itself, if the reports from Xyologic, an application search company, are to be believed.
If you have a smart phone, you most likely have said goodbye to the SMS way of texting and adopted to Whatsapp which accounts for over 100 Million active users from India, which is almost half of the Facebook’s population.
Let’s take a leaf out of the books of these two Engineers who decided to make a difference with the simple product principle of “No Ads, No Games, No Gimmicks” – that was scribbled by Brian Acton on a cheap notepaper and still remains pinned to Jan Koum’s desk.