Jan Koum: The WhatsApp Visionary

Jan Koum, born on February 24, 1976, is a Jewish-American entrepreneur who hails from the former Soviet Union. He is best known as the CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp, a messaging application that gained enormous popularity and was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for a staggering $19 billion in cash and stock.


Koum was born and raised in a small village near Kyiv, Ukraine, back when it was part of the Soviet Union. He was the only child of a Jewish family. His mother worked as a housewife, while his father held a job in construction as a foreman. The family lived in poverty, and even basic amenities like hot water were a luxury they couldn't afford.

In 1992, due to rising anti-Semitism in Ukraine, Koum and his mother emigrated to California, United States, where they settled in Silicon Valley, specifically in Mountain View. His father remained in Ukraine and sadly passed away in 1997.

The Koum family, small and financially disadvantaged, faced economic hardships even in their new homeland. They received government assistance to purchase their two-bedroom apartment, and Jan's mother worked as a babysitter, while Jan himself took on a job as a grocery store cleaner. They relied on food stamps from the city's welfare department for sustenance.

Jan Koum completed high school and began pursuing a college degree at San Jose State University. However, he abandoned his studies before completing his degree. In 1997, he started working at Yahoo! as a software engineer, a position he secured with the help of Brian Acton, who would later become his WhatsApp co-founder.

Tragedy struck in 2000 when Koum's mother succumbed to cancer.

In 2007, after working at Yahoo! for a decade, both Koum and Acton left the company. They embarked on a year-long journey around the world while searching for new job opportunities. Both of them unsuccessfully attempted to join Facebook.

In 2009, Koum founded WhatsApp, and nine months later, Acton joined him. Sequoia Capital invested approximately $60 million over three separate rounds. By the time of the acquisition by Facebook, Koum held a 45% stake in the company (with Acton holding 20%).

In April 2018, Koum announced his intention to leave his role as CEO of WhatsApp.

As of October 2021, his estimated net worth is around $10.6 billion.

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