Entrepreneurial Hero: Jan Koum

Everyone has their share of frustrations. But for Jan Koum, it was these frustrations that ultimately led him to success. Koum is one of the founders of WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app that allows users to exchange messages through the Internet use without paying for SMS. Like many entrepreneurs, Koum started at the bottom and worked his way to the top, even with circumstances that would have left most people feeling absolutely hopeless.

After growing up in a small Ukraine village with no hot water or indoor plumbing, Koum and his mother made the move to the United States when he was a teenager. Although they still struggled financially and couldn’t afford a computer, Koum taught himself computer networking from a manual he purchased at a used bookstore. He maintained his resourcefulness throughout college, where he eventually crossed paths with his soon-to-be business partner, Brian Acton, while working at Yahoo.

The idea for WhatsApp hit Koum when he was constantly frustrated by the lack of mobile availability in certain areas. But this frustration soon turned into the motivation he needed, and in 2009, the app was launched. By 2011, WhatsApp reached the top 20 in Apple’s App Store and by 2014, Facebook was purchasing it for nearly $16 billion.

But even with all the success, Koum doesn’t take his accomplishments for granted. In early 2014, when he signed the deal with Facebook, he chose for the ceremony to take place at the Social Services building where he once stood in line for food stamps. It is inspiring to see such a humble entrepreneur achieve his dreams. Kudos to you, Jan Koum!

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