Life is a Miracle: the success story of the founder of WhatsApp Jan Kuma

As a native of Ukraine, immigrated to the US in 20 years has gone from a survival benefit to the creation of world's most popular mobile messenger purchased by Facebook for $ 19 billion.

Yang Kum chose a symbolic place for the conclusion of an agreement for the sale of messenger WhatsAppsocial network Facebook.Together with the second founder Brian Acton and service partner of venture capital fund Sequoia Capital Jim Goetz I went to Qom unremarkable residential white building just blocks from the headquarters of WhatsApp in Mountain View, California.This former office nonprofit North County Social Services, where 37-year-old Kumu once had to go to get food on the Social coupons.Now, three key figures for WhatsApp set in a historic building signed the document approving the deal, which overnight made billionaire founder messenger.For a project with modest revenues of $ 20 million the world's largest social network February 19, 2014 posted a record $ 19 billion.

Qom, who, according to Forbes, is owned 45% WhatsApp - share of a $ 6.8 billion, was born and raised in a small village near Kiev.

He was the only child of a housewife and a builder to erect the building of hospitals and schools.The house Kuma had no electricity and hot water.His parents tried to talk on the phone less often, for fear that officials will disconnect the line.It sounds scary, but Kum, oddly enough, still misses the village childhood.Spartan conditions in which the future billionaire was raised - probably one of the reasons why he categorically rejects the dominance of its advertising business.

In 16 years of Qom with his mother immigrated to the Mountain View, fearing political instability and the growth of anti-Semitism in Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union.According to the program of social support they have received a small apartment with two bedrooms.His father had to move overseas has never been able to.Mother Kuma carried suitcases full of pens, pencils and a stack of 20 Soviet notebooks, not to spend money on the office of the United States.At first, she moonlighted as a nanny, and Ian was sweeping floors at the grocery store.The family barely making ends meet.When his mother was diagnosed with cancer of Qum, they had to survive on her disability benefits.Yang learned to communicate in English, but could not get used to the surface communication style of American students, constantly recalling the Ukrainian friends who side by side spent ten years of school."There you have time to learn about the man almost all" - he said.

The school had a reputation as a bully Qom, but settled down to 18 years, fascinated by programming.He was self-taught and fished information from textbooks, which took "rental" in second-hand shops.Soon, Ian joined the hacker group w00w00 and repeatedly hacked servers of Silicon Graphics, as well as a lot of contact with another famous native of w00w00, co-founder of music service Napster Shawn Fanning.

Kum enrolled at the University of San Jose and got a job in the information security department of Ernst & amp;Young.In 1997, he met with the manager of Yahoo Brian Acton (he was 44th on the account officer Yahoo) as part of the inspection system of Internet advertising giant."Then he looked quite different - says Acton.- All this of itself serious, like, "So what is your policy in this area?" Kum very different from other auditors E & amp; Y, who used tactics of communication and trust did not disdain to give customers an important bottle of good wine."Okay, let's get straight to the point" - Acton quickly took over the business style of Qom.

have similar memories of Ian first meeting: "We both did not want to deal with this corporate garbage."Six months later, he was interviewed by Yahoo in the position of network engineer.Kum was in university when two weeks after his employment to Yahoo's servers are out of order.Yahoo co-founder David Filo scored mobile Yana, but in response to an urgent request to deal with the problem in the tube hear a whisper: "I'm in the classroom.""What the heck?- Outraged file.- Quickly get your ass to the office! "At that time, Yahoo's staff of engineers has been modest, so that each combat unit was worth its weight in gold."In any case, I hated studies" - shrugs Qom.He soon dropped out.

When his mother Jan died of cancer in 2000, a young native of Ukraine was left all alone (his father died in 1997-m).At the critical moment has come to the rescue of Acton."He invited me to the ceremony guests" - says Kum.Colleagues skied together, played football and frisbee.

next seven years, they have built a career in Yahoo, which in the meantime has gone through a number of ups and dips.Acton badly invested their savings during the boom of "dot-com" at the turn of the "zero" and lost several million dollars.Despite the fact that he did not like advertising, Brian was instrumental in the launch of a large-scale advertising platform Project Panama, one of the key development Yahoo, in 2006."I have any contact with the world of advertising drives in depression - says Acton.- You do not draw a better life when perfect the advertisements on your site. "He was emotionally exhausted by the need to constantly perform unloved work."I saw it, met him in the corridor" - confirms Qom.He himself, however, also stopped getting pleasure of working days.In his profile on LinkedIn Kum sparingly and without enthusiasm he describes the last three years, Yahoo: «He performed some work."

In September 2007, the future creators of WhatsApp finally broken with their corporation are weary and made myself long rehabilitation vacation per year.They traveled through South America, played frisbee favorite team and enjoy the freedom.Both tried to get to Facebook - and failed."Yes, we are members of the club objectors Facebook», - laughs Acton, whose optimistic reaction to the decision of the management of social networks is preserved in the annals of his Twitter-account.

Kum "eats" $ 400,000 of their savings, Yahoo and not too thought about the future, while in January 2009, did not buy the iPhone.He immediately felt the fantastic potential of the device, rather, the store App Store, which was seven months old, and the industry of mobile applications in general.Kum at the time zahazhival often to visit his Russian friend Alex Fishman, who arranged at home in the west of the San Jose gatherings with pizza and watching new films for the local Russian community.Going for 40 people.Two of them are usually stepped aside and over a cup of tea in the kitchen discussing the idea of ​​a new application - it was the Qom and Fishman.

«Ian showed me your contact list on your smartphone - says Fishman.- And explains that it would be great to make the application in which the names of people assigned to the individual status. "Updates within the meaning of Qom, had to report to your contacts list, that you are talking on the phone that your iPhone battery will soon be exhausted or that you can not pick up the phone, because you're in the gym.To compensate for lack of experience, he was looking for mobile application developers.Fishman brought him down with Igor Solomennikova - specialists from Russia, found on the site

Kum quickly came up with the name of WhatsApp - haunting reference to the question "How are you?» (What's up?) A week after his birthday, February 24, 2009, he established the company WhatsApp Inc.California."He thought of everything," - says Fishman.The application itself at the time of registration of legal entities was not yet ready, the clock Kum finishing code to WhatsApp learned to synchronize with any phone number around the world, for that he is scouring the Wikipedia page for a complete list of international prefixes.In consideration of regional nuances of the founder of the company took several months of routine work.

original version of WhatsApp lot sboila and brakes.When Fishman downloaded the application of hundreds of numbers in its contact list WhatsApp was established at units - mainly in the local Russian familiar with Kum.

At dinner in steakhouse Tony Roma's in San Jose Fishman counting bugs service while sitting in front of Qom meticulously recorded all complaints "test" in one of those Soviet notebooks that his mother had brought with her to the United States - Ian kept simpleimmigrant belongings to make the most important in his life record.

A month later, after another play frisbee startups in conversation with Acton grudgingly admitted that idea with WhatsApp has failed and it's time to get a job.But an old friend came to the rescue again - this time a good advice: "You will be a fool if you throw all right now.Be patient has at least a couple of months. "

drowning Help came from an unexpected quarter: in June 2009, Apple launched the notification option so that the application could remind myself, even when the owner of the iPhone does not use them.Yang quickly updated WhatsApp - Now whenever a user changed its status (for example, "I can not say I'm in the Hall"), the service notifies the whole list of his contacts.Russian friends Fishman immediately made it a rule jokingly notify each other of "every chihe" setting statuses like "Woke up late" and "Have a meal".

«At some point, WhatsApp has become a means of communication, - says Fishman.- We started to use it to ask, "Hey, how are you?" And someone answered immediately. "Ian watched the changing status of the user on the screen of the Mac Mini as a townhouse in Santa Clara, and more clearly understood that inadvertently created a convenient service messenger."I was fascinated by the idea to be constantly in touch with someone who is from you for thousands of kilometers, with the help of a device that always carry with them," - said Kum.

only free text messenger in the market at that time was a BBM from Research in Motion, which only works on BlackBerry smartphones Canadian manufacturer.Also developed G-Talk from Google and Skype, but WhatsApp on their background was a competitive advantage - Login Service has been your phone number.Kum soon introduced version 2.0 with optional messaging and get a return in the form of a sharp rise in the number of the audience jumped up to 250 000 users.Then Yang decided to invite to the project Acton, who could not find a job and had tried unsuccessfully to start the next startup.

Friends sat in the kitchen at home Acton and sent messages to each other on WhatsApp, who later became famous by testing the function of the appearance of a double tick message after the recipient views it.Brian already realized in front of him - a real alternative to SMS and thing more effective than never gained its popularity MMS technology for sharing photos and other non-text content."We have had all the infinite universe of the Internet, which was to win," - he says.

Soon Qom and Acton occupied Red Rock Café - cafe for startups at the busy intersection of Mountain View.The second floor facilities and today the eyeballs full of people buried in laptops, in the silence of writing code for their applications.WhatsApp founders often sat at a rickety tables Cafe - Acton with a notebook and a laptop Qom.In October, Brian attracted to the service first seed investment: $ 250 000 per project put five of his friends - former employees of Yahoo.Acton received the status of co-founder and the share of WhatsApp.He officially began working in the company 1 November 2009 (Until the transaction to Facebook Qom and Acton retained total share of 60%, that for technology start-ups is very high. Ian rights-author of the idea and the only developer in the first nine months of the service was greatshare. The first employees also collectively controlled a relatively large share - approximately 1%. Officially, the company does not comment on these numbers).

Qom and Acton constantly receives feedback from the owners of iPhone, intrigued convenient functionality free messenger, but frustrated inability to communicate with friends, users of Nokia and BlackBerry.Since the Android operating system was then in its infancy, Kum hired an old friend Chris Peiffer from Los Angeles to develop a BlackBerry-version of the application."I was skeptical, - says Peiffer.- Is SMS is not enough to communicate? "Kum mind: SMS« lock "users inside the country."This is the last day - he said the developer.- It is a dead technology, cash cow for mobile operators, who will go into the past, as in the '70s has left a fax. "After hearing the arguments of Qom, and looking at the galloping rate of audience growth WhatsApp, Peiffer joined the team.

through links to Yahoo start to look for a room as an office - a few rooms in a former warehouse on Evelyn Avenue in San Jose.The rest of the building was occupied by the service Evernote, which eventually "survived" modest neighbors from their territory.In winter, the staff WhatsApp wrapped in warm blankets to keep warm, and they had to work for cheap tables from Ikea.The office did not even have a logo of the service."They explained to Map:" Find a building Evernote.Walk around it.You see the back door without plate.Knock "- recalls his interview one of the first developers of BlackBerry-version of WhatsApp Michael Donohue.

Kum Acton and the first few years working for free, but their largest item of expenditure was the sending of text notifications.The already limited budget WhatsApp ravaged SMS-brokers such as Click-A-Tell, organize sending a message to the US 2 cents per user, and the user is in the Middle East - more than 64 cents.Today, the company spends on notice about $ 500 000 per month.In 2009, the amount was much smaller, but it was enough to drain the bank account of Qom.Fortunately, WhatsApp exactly to the beginning of 2010, first learned to generate revenue - came out to about $ 5,000 a month, and this is enough to cover the administrative costs.The founders experimented, making the service free of charge, the fee to see how the audience is interested in the functional application.The turning point came when, in December 2009 an updated learned to WhatsApp to send photos - despite the price tag of $ 1, the influx of new users again accelerated sharply."I think we can leave it paid" - expressed the common opinion Acton.

By the beginning of 2011 WhatsApp climbed to the top rating of the most popular apps in the US App Store.One of the corporate lunch one of the staff asked Kuma, why he does not attract media attention to the project."Marketing and media raises dust - said the founder of the service.- A dust gets in your eyes.And you can no longer focus on the product. "

For venture capitalists, however, the attention of journalists - not the main criterion promising startups.A WhatsApp their success at that time already create a stir in Silicon Valley.Acton Qom and only manages that shy away from prying proposals for negotiations.Brian about the idea of ​​attracting venture capital investment as a credit yoke.He managed to convince a partner Sequoia Jim Goetz.Stubborn investor eight months courting the founders of WhatsApp, he had to use all his numerous contacts in the industry.During this time, Goetz met with a dozen teams of developers of other messengers - Pinger, Tango, Baluga et al., But the search for a partner Sequoia strengthened in opinion: WhatsApp - true leaders of the segment.For Goetz was a surprise that the service is already paying income tax."It's the only precedent in my venture career," - he says.Fateful meeting was held in the same Red Rock Café.The investor had to withstand cross-examination wayward startups and promise never to put pressure on them, demanding the introduction of advertising models.For the right to invest in money WhatsApp Sequoia Goetz agreed to become a "strategic adviser" of the company.The fund invested in messenger $ 8 million.

Two years later, in February 2013, when the audience WhatsApp has grown to nearly 200 million active users, and the company's staff has grown to 50 people, Qom and Acton agreed that it was time for a new roundinvestment."To err" - Brian explains their motives.He recalls how his mother, who had a little business to deliver goods, suffered from insomnia, fear of crap wage arrears, "You would not want to be in a situation in which you will not be able to settle with the staff."The second round was held non-public investments.Sequoia has invested in service an additional $ 50 million, considering the messenger of $ 1.5 billion. Shortly before Acton sent Getz screenshot bank statement WhatsApp: the account of the company lay a $ 8.257 million - more than the project has received from the fund a couple of years earlier.

firmly standing on its feet, the service acquires new status corresponding infrastructure.