Who better to inspire you to kick start your life/business than Jan Koum, the man who sold WhatsApp to Facebook for $19 billion. While some of Koum’s story seems straight out of the Silicon Valley handbook, there are some interesting deviations that may prove useful to the aspiring Master of the Tech Universe.
He developed an interest in computer programming at a young age. He taught himself how to write codes without any formal schooling. He then went on to work at Yahoo Inc. as an IT engineer. It was during his career stint at Yahoo that he made friends with Brian Acton. His friendship with Brian Acton led to the founding of Whatsapp. And the rest they say is history.
Here are 8 success lessons from Jan Koum – “WhatsApp Founder and Billionaire” for entrepreneurs,
1. Your background is not an excuse for failure in life
Jan Koum did menial jobs like cleaning and mopping at a grocery store while his mother took up a babysitting job. At a point in his life, he and his mother depended on allowances from the government. (Jan signed the agreement with Facebook on the door of the social services office where he and his mother used to stand in line to collect food stamps.)
2. School is overrated
“He was still at San Jose State University when two weeks into his job at Yahoo, one of the company’s servers broke. Yahoo cofounder David Filo called his mobile for help. ’I’m in class,’ Koum answered discreetly. ’What the fuck are you doing in class?’ Filo said. ’Get your ass into the office.’ Filo had a small team of server engineers and needed all the help he could get. ’I hated school anyway,’ Koum says. He dropped out.”
3. Details matter
“On his birthday, Feb. 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California. ’He’s very thorough,’ says Fishman. The app hadn’t even been written yet. Koum spent days creating the backend code to synch his app with any phone number in the world, poring over a Wikipedia entry that listed international dialing prefis—he would spend many infuriating months updating it for the hundreds of regional nuances.”
4. For serious thinking, grab the pen and paper
“Early WhatsApp kept crashing or getting stuck, and when Fishman installed it on his phone, only a handful of the hundreds numbers on his address book—mostly local Russian friends—had also downloaded it. Over ribs at Tony Roma’s in San Jose, Fishman went over the problems and Koum took notes in one of the Soviet-era notebooks he’d brought over years before and saved for important projects.”
5. Be a lifelong learner
Jan Koum had a passion for learning. When he arrived in California he had an interest in information technology as a result, he began studying and practicing what he learned about software programing. He studied and practiced software programing up to the point that-he gained confidence to start writing-software codes.
He became very skillful at writing codes that Yahoo Inc. hired him as an IT infrastructure engineer. He then gained more experience in computer programming that he was able to start his own business.
6. Don’t allow disappointment to overwhelm you
Jan was turned down turned down for employment by Facebook. He mentioned “Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next adventure.”
7. Be passion-driven not money-driven
Jan wanted to create a product that would meet a need, and when this product filled the need, money came. Today he is a billionaire. Money was not his primary motivation. He says he just wanted to build a great product. “I started WhatsApp, to build a product. I do not want to create a company around it, the goal was not to earn. We wanted to spend our time building a service people wanted to use because it worked and saved them money and made their lives better in a small way.” He tweeted in 2012 that he was not an entrepreneur: “Next person to call me an entrepreneur is getting punched in the face by my bodyguard, seriously.”
8. A good product will advertise itself
Do you know how much WhatsApp spends on marketing their service? Zero! WhatsApp has a ‘no ads’ policy. This is what WhatsApp says about advertising, “No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow. We know people go to sleep excited about who they chatted with that day (and disappointed about who they didn’t). We want WhatsApp to be the product that keeps you awake… and that you reach for in the morning. No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an advertisement.”