Friday, 6 May 2016

The poor Ukrainian immigrant who became a Silicon Valley mogul

When Facebook announced that it was buying mobile messaging startup WhatsApp for $19 billion in February 2014, that caused quite a stir. Jan Koum, the startup’s cofounder became the most talked about entrepreneur overnight. Media reported that the WhatsApp floored Mark Zuckerberg so much that the record offer was made so that the two could become “friends.”

A true rags to riches hero, Koum was born and raised in a village on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine, as the only child of a housewife and a construction labourer. Forbes reported that his house has no hot water, and his parents feared that their phone was tapped by the State and so rarely talked on it. He immigrated to California with his mother when he was 16. He used to sweep the floor of a grocery store and stood in line to collect food stamps. By 18, he was an expert computer hacker.

In 1997, Koum was hired by Yahoo as an infrastructure engineer, shortly after he met Brian Acton while working at Ernst & Young as a security tester. In January 2009, Koum bought an iPhone and realized that it would spawn a whole new industry of apps. On his birthday, February 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California.


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