WhatsApp Founder Jan Koum's Jewish Rags-to-Riches Tale

Silicon Valley Mogul Was Broke Ukraine Immigrant

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By Reuters

Published February 20, 2014.
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Similarly, Brin’s early childhood in Russia contributed to its “Don’t Be Evil” motto.

Koum’s view was evident in a tweet he wrote last year about Iran and Turkmenistan blocking WhatsApp.

“When government gets in the way, consumers and freedom to communicate suffers,” he wrote.

He also sees advertising as an imposition.

“When advertising is involved, you the user are the product,” Koum wrote in a 2012 blog post, disparaging the effort other companies make to collect personal data. That same year, he quoted singer Kanye West in a tweet, writing, “You think you free but you a slave to the funds, baby.”

WhatsApp charges 99 cents a year, and that bargain-basement approach extends to the WhatsApp’s original office, according to Yoav Leitersdorf of YL Ventures, who visited in 2010 in an attempt to invest in the young company. He’s still impressed by both the founders and what he saw.

“It was like a car dealership with no cars inside and hardly any furniture at all for that matter,” Leitersdorf recalled. “I remember parking my car and walking around the building for about five minutes or more, looking for the office door.” The office contained a handful of desks atop a stained wall-to-wall carpet, he said.

At the time, Koum mentioned that many of the engineers worked remotely; today he provides recommendations for some on his LinkedIn page.

Last month, as the crisis in his home country of Ukraine escalated, Koum posted photos of revolutionaries and tweeted “praying for peace and quick resolution to the crisis #ukraine #freedom.”

He also has given a shout-out or two to his adopted country. “WhatsApp Messenger,” he tweeted last year. “Made in USA. Land of the free and the home of the brave.”


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