WhatsApp: from a simple idea to a $billion pay day
July 20, 2014
It’s the stuff of dreams when two young entrepreneurs come together with an idea and turn it into a business that is snapped up by Facebook for a cool $19 billion. The company is WhatsApp and both of the founders started life as nothing more than employees working for someone else.
In the case of co-founder Jan Koum, he moved to the United States from the Ukraine and spent his teenage years living with his family in a two bedroom apartment in Mountain View California.When Koum, and fellow WhatsApp Co-Founder Brian Acton, met while working at Yahoo there was an obvious spark because after nine years that dropped out and went travelling together around South America, as legend has it, playing ultimate Frisbee.
In 2009, after Koum bought an Apple iPhone he clicked that the relatively new App store may just take off and who would not have thought that given the huge global movement of people wanting to get hold of the device. Give people a tool in which they can communicate and they will always find new and creative ways of using it. After talking to a friend for a few hours Koum came up with a name WhatsApp” and why? Because it sounds like that very USism “Whats Up”.
That friend was Alex Fishman and he told Forbes recently Jan was showing me his address book,” recalls Fishman.
“His thinking was it would be really cool to have statuses next to individual names of the people.”
The statuses would show if you were on a call, your battery was low, or you were at the gym. Koum could do the backend, but he needed an iPhone developer, so Fishman introduced Koum to Igor Solomennikov, a developer in Russia that he’d found on RentACoder.com.”
In fact in the summer of 2009 Facebook actually turned WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton for a job and wow didn’t that turn out to be a costly decision! In fact, he told his Twitter followers that “Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life's next adventure. ”
So what is WhatsApp and why? Well the best way of describing it is going verbatim (thanks Wikipedia): WhatsApp is a proprietary, cross-platform instant messaging subscription service for smartphones. In addition to text messaging, users can send each other images, video, and audio media messages as well as their location using integrated mapping features.
The client software is available for Google Android, BlackBerry OS, Apple iOS, selected Nokia Series 40, Symbian, selected Nokia Asha platform, Microsoft Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10Competing with a number of Asian-based messaging services (like LINE, KakaoTalk, WeChat), WhatsApp handled ten billion messages per day in August 2012, growing from two billion in April 2012, and one billion the previous October.
On June 13, 2013, WhatsApp announced that they had reached their new daily record by processing 27 billion messages. According to the Financial Times, WhatsApp "has done to SMS on mobile phones what Skype did to international calling on landlines."As of November 10, 2013, WhatsApp had over 190 million monthly active users, 400 million photos are shared each day, and the messaging system handles more than 10 billion messages each day.
In a December 2013 blog post, WhatsApp claimed that 400 million active users use the service each month. So what are some of the lessons that budding entrepreneurs can take from WhatsApp?:
The opportunities in App development are still huge
The simplest ideas can be great money spinners if you can identify what gap your product will fill
Stay the course and keep working at it Sometimes being turned down for a job makes you more resilient and determined and the real lesson is never give up.
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