- Jan Koum founded Whatsapp in 2009
- Facebook bought Whatsapp in 2014 for a $22 billion deal
- Koum clashed with Facebook over data privacy concerns
Whatsapp founder Jan Koum is a multibillionaire. But when he was younger, no one imagined he would reach where he is right now.
His rags to riches story started in Ukraine where life was so hard that his household did not have running water. When he was 16 years old, he moved to the U.S. with his family, per Business Insider. Life did not immediately improve, but the young Koum had to strive to survive. He finished books about computers when he was in high school. He worked for Ernst and Young after getting a degree at San Jose State University. It was at Ernst and Young where he met future Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton, who was working for Yahoo at the time.
Koum then transferred to Yahoo and spent nine years there, mostly working in the anti-hacker department, before being promoted as manager of infrastructure engineering. Koum and Acton tried their luck getting a job at Facebook but were turned down. In 2009, the two built an app that allowed users to status updates on their phones.
What set them apart from other developers and programmers was that they cared about security first and foremost. The founders promised Whatsapp would have no games, ads and gimmicks. Soon, the app’s popularity started to steadily climb, especially in developing countries. This progress prompted Mark Zuckerberg to call Koum in 2012.
Facebook eventually acquired Whatsapp in 2014 for $22 billion. According to Forbes, the deal included cash and stock. Koum’s stock rose as Facebook became one of the world’s biggest social media platforms.
Due to the belief of its founders, Whatsapp became fully end-to-end encrypted in 2016. They vowed never to let the parent company utilize its users’ database. However, the inevitable happened and Koum resigned from his post over issues with Facebook’s approach on data privacy. The move led Acton to call for the deletion of Facebook amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, a report from The Verge revealed.
On the personal side, Koum has not forgotten where he started. He donated $556 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation after the mammoth Facebook deal was done. While he is generous in sharing his fortune, he also likes to treat himself. He splurged $100 million on a Malibu mansion in 2019, according to Variety. The property was once owned by NBC Universal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer. It features six bedrooms and at least seven bathrooms and sits on a massive 13,693 square feet of land. Koum also owns a $5.5 million mansion in Hillsborough, California and also has a property in Atherton, California that carries a price tag of $8.5 million.