He Worked In A Grocery Store To Help His Sick Mother. Today, Jan Koum Is The Co-founder And Former Ceo Of Whatsapp.


Jan Koum

He moved to the United States with his mother at a young age, and he had to work twice as hard to achieve his dreams. The story of Jan Koum should be filmed as a documentary, so the world can watch how he built his success from nothing but determination.


In absence of a documentary, I’d tell you the inspirational story of Jan Koum, the Ukrainian-American businessman, who built the Whatsapp empire, and also made himself a billionaire.




Jan Koum was born in the neighborhood of Kyiv, Ukraine in 1976. Growing up in a Jewish family, Jan Koum was brought up with morals and values. Jan Koum’s father tried to fend for the family as a construction worker, while his mother took care of the house and little Jan.


Being a little boy growing up in a communist environment, Jan Koum was exposed to the negative crisis of his surroundings. He adapted to extreme privacy, a character that has grown to be part of him to date.


Due to the crisis developing in Ukraine at that time, Koum’s mother suggested it would be best to leave the country for a better environment.


So after communism ended in Eastern Europe, Jan Koum and his family moved to America in search of greener pastures. Jam Koum’s father couldn’t migrate with the family, so he stayed behind, and promised to join Jan and his mother later on.


Life in Mountain View, California, where they moved to wasn’t as rosy as they must have expected it to be. In fact, it looked like things turned worse for them almost immediately. Jan Koum’s father was unable to support his family because he eventually couldn’t make it out of Ukraine.


As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jan Koum’s mother began to show symptoms of an illness, and when she went for a checkup, she was diagnosed with cancer. Now it was a battle between survival and reality for Jan Koum and his mother.


They were poor and almost stranded, and had to live off the federal support they got from the US government.


Jan Koum was in his teenage years at that time, and he was already doing all he could to help out his mother. He worked as a janitor at a grocery store, where he was able to receive financial compensation to support the family.


Despite the harsh circumstances that surrounded Jan Koum, it didn’t change the fact that he was a smart young boy, and also a quick learner. After spending some time in the US he acquired knowledge of computer programming from self-learning and practicing.


Technology slowly became an escape for Jan Koum. He even joined an elite hacking group, where he learned the foundation of Cybersecurity. People who knew him then would have called him a geek due to his obsession with anything that had to do with technology.


Jan Koum was exceeding in school, and he got admitted into San Jose State University. At that time, he was already working at Yahoo, so the education and workload became overwhelming for Jan. Seeing that he couldn’t handle the pressure, Jan had to stop schooling after only spending a year at the University.




Before Jan Koum dropped out of school, he was working at Ernst & Young under the security department. He worked diligently as he has always done till one day, he met with Brian Acton. He obviously didn’t know the kind of future he would have with Brian, but both of them connected immediately.


Jan Koum focused on working with Yahoo after dropping out of school. Jan and Brian worked at Yahoo for close to a decade before deciding to quit in 2007. They stopped working at Yahoo because he wasn’t satisfied with the job and felt he could do something more with his life.


After some time, Jan Koum and Brian Acton decided to apply for a position at Facebook. However, their eagerness to work at the fast-developing company was met with disappointment when they couldn’t get a role at the company.


If they had known the relationship they would be having with Facebook in the future, they would have walked away from the disappointment with a smile on their face. Even without knowing what the future had in store for them, the duo started to plan out what to do next, as they couldn’t stay jobless for much longer.



Jan Koum

Jan Koum and Brian Acton thought for a while, and eventually, they were left with two options. They thought they could either join a new company to gain more experience and meet ends meet, or they could just start up their own company.


Jan observed various communication platforms that emerged through the help of technology to see how they work, and what he could do something different if he wanted to set up his own company. Jan Koum chose communication technology due to the way his childhood was shaped.


His family found it difficult to communicate regularly due to the high cost of communication. Jan Koum wanted to solve this problem by creating an easier, cheaper, and more friendly medium for other people dwelling in this circumstance.


This made him decide he was going to start up his own communication company for the benefit of the public without considering the monetary sacrifices.


Jan Koum met with Alex Fishman in 2009 to share his underdeveloped idea. Alex Fishman was Jan’s friend, and he was ready to help him set his vision in motion. Alex introduced Jan to Igor Solomennikov, a Russian developer who could help Jan build an interface for the platform.


At that time, the platform had no name, and Jan had no plans of launching the messaging platform anytime soon.


However, that changed on February 24. It was Jan Koum’s birthday, and while going through the activities of the day, he met with Brian Acton.


Jan related his idea with Brian, and on that day, they both legally established their messaging platform; naming it WHATSAPP. The name was coined from the popular informal idiom “What’s up?” Jan’s vision was now in motion, and now, all that was left was for the public to accept this platform.



Whatsapp was officially launched to the public a few months after the paper works were settled. What should have been a good and memorable launch turned out to be a blunt attack on Jan’s vision.


Jan’s App flopped after its release. However, Jan Koum had a strong spirit and didn’t let that discourage him. He studied why the app flopped, and fortunately for him, he was able to use iPhone’s push notification update that had just been released to his advantage.


Since Jan had lost money during the first launch, Brian Acton offered to help with an investment and a new business strategy. Everything went according to plan. Jan now understood how to build Whatsapp around people’s social networks, and they now had a new business plan.


Jan Koum decided he was going to try again a second time. In September 2009, Jan relaunched Whatsapp. He made the right decision to try again because this time, Whatapp became a huge success.


Being a free messaging platform as Jan Koum had wanted; it was really difficult to manage.


They grew so massively, they started having over 10,000 downloads in a day. To manage the business, they started seeking investors. Brian was able to raise $250,000 for the company by convincing their past colleagues at Yahoo to invest in the company.


At a point, Jan and Brian denied themselves any form of financial compensation, so they could use the little they earned from the company to manage its activities. Jan and Brian worked extremely hard so they could make sure the company didn’t fold up eventually.




Jan Koum

In 2011, Jan and Brian started receiving rewards for their tenacity. The company was growing at an amazing speed, and it started attracting capitalists who wanted to be a part of the company’s success.


One thing Jan didn’t like was interference in his business. In fact, he didn’t like public attention at all.


This was due to the private life he was exposed to while he lived in Ukraine as a child. Despite turning down advances from various capitalists, he was still about to reap massive success from Whatsapp.


– In the early months of 2011, Whatsapp became one of the top 20 apps used in the U.S.


– In February 2011, the Whatsapp user base rose to about 200 million.


– In 2014, Jan Koum sold Whatsapp to Mark Zukerberg for a whopping $22 billion.


– Today, Jan Koum’s net worth is estimated at $13.2 billion.


Jan Koum came from a rough and poor background, but he didn’t let this determine who he was going to be in the future. This is just one of the many values to pick from Jan Koum’s life, as his story left a trail of motivation to help you through your life journey.


– Develop a winning mindset. Do not easily be discouraged by defeat. Try again as many times as you can, because you never know when it might be your time to shine.


– Cultivate a disciplined routine. Invest more than you spend, work and sleep and at the right time, expand your knowledge. All these would bring you a step closer to your dream.


– Observe before action. You can make mistakes as much as you like, but do not repeat the same mistake. Observe and work on your past mistakes before taking any new action.


– Be pragmatic with your thoughts. Filter out any thought that doesn’t add value to your life. Think about things that can help you grow. It would give you a healthier mindset.


He was poor, he went through the hardship of life at a young age, and he had to make a lot of sacrifices to get to where he is today. This is the inspirational story of Jan Koum, the successful business icon.


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