Jan Koum
Jan Koum
Tumblr inline n19k9vpY8G1qzzumw (cropped).jpg
Jan Koum (left) with Brian Acton
Native name
Born (1976-02-24) February 24, 1976 (age 41)
Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Residence Santa Clara, California,United States
Citizenship American
Alma mater San Jose State University (dropped out)
Occupation CEO of WhatsApp & Managing Director in Facebook, Inc.
Years active 2009 - present
Organization WhatsApp Inc.
Known for Co-founded WhatsApp
Home town Fastiv, Ukraine
Net worth Increase US$9.7 billion (May 2016)[1]

Jan Koum (Ukrainian: ; born February 24, 1976) is a Ukrainian-American internet inventor[2] and computer programmer. He is the CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp, a mobile messaging application which was acquired by Facebook Inc. in February 2014 for US$19.3 billion.

In 2014, he entered the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans at position 62, with an estimated worth of more than $7.5 billion. He was the highest-ranked newcomer to the list that year.[3]

Life and career

Koum was born in Kiev, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). He is of Jewish origin.[4] He grew up in Fastiv, outside Kiev, and moved with his mother and grandmother to Mountain View, California in 1992,[5] where a social support program helped the family to get a small two-bedroom apartment,[6] at the age of 16. His father had intended to join the family later, but finally remained in Ukraine.[7] At first Koum's mother worked as a babysitter, while he himself worked as a cleaner at a grocery store. By the age of 18 he became interested in programming. He enrolled at San Jose State University and simultaneously worked at Ernst & Young as a security tester.[6]

In February 1996, a restraining order was granted against Koum in state court in San Jose, California. An ex-girlfriend detailed incidents in which she said Koum verbally and physically threatened her. In October 2014, Koum said about the restraining order, "I am ashamed of the way I acted, and ashamed that my behavior forced her to take legal action".[8]

In 1997, Jan Koum was hired by Yahoo as an infrastructure engineer, shortly after he met Brian Acton while working at Ernst & Young as a security tester.[6] Over the next nine years, they worked at Yahoo. In September 2007 Koum and Acton left Yahoo and took a year off, traveling around South America and playing ultimate frisbee. Both applied, and failed, to work at Facebook. In January 2009, he bought an iPhone and realized that the then-seven-month-old App Store was about to spawn a whole new industry of apps. He visited his friend Alex Fishman and the two talked for hours about Koum's idea for an app over tea at Fishman's kitchen counter.[6] Koum almost immediately chose the name WhatsApp because it sounded like "what's up", and a week later on his birthday, February 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California.[6]

WhatsApp became popular in just a short amount of time, and this caught Facebook's attention. Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg first contacted Koum in the spring 2012. The two began meeting at a coffee shop in Los Altos, California, then began a series of dinners and walks in the hills above Silicon Valley.[9]

On February 9, 2014 Zuckerberg asked Koum to have dinner at his home, and formally proposed Koum a deal to join the Facebook board - 10 days later Facebook announced it was acquiring WhatsApp for US$19 billion.[10][11][12][13][14]

Over the first half of 2016, Koum sold more than $2.4 billion worth of Facebook stock, which was about a half of his total holdings. He is estimated to still own another $2.4 billion in Facebook stock.[15]


Jan Koum was part of a group of hackers called w00w00, where he met[6][16] the future founders of Napster, Shawn Fanning and Jordan Ritter.

In November 2014, Koum donated one million dollars to The FreeBSD Foundation, and close to $556 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) the same year.[17]


  1. ^ "Jan Koum in Forbes". Forbes. Retrieved . 
  2. ^ "Why WhatsApp's Founder Hates Being Called An Entrepreneur". Retrieved . 
  3. ^ Forbes Announces Its 33rd Annual Forbes 400 Ranking Of The Richest Americans; 29 September 2014, Forbes.com, accessed 12 November 2014
  4. ^ "WhatsApp Founder Jan Koum's Jewish Rags-to-Riches Tale". The Jewish Daily Forward. Reuters. 20 February 2014. Retrieved 2014. 
  5. ^ Rowan, David. "WhatsApp: The inside story (Wired UK)". Wired.co.uk. Retrieved . 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Parmy Olson (February 19, 2014). "Exclusive: The Rags-To-Riches Tale Of How Jan Koum Built WhatsApp Into Facebook's New $19 Billion Baby". Forbes. Retrieved 2014. .
  7. ^ WhatsApp: Jan Koum - The Story Of A Man Who Kept It Simple, Jewish Business News, Feb 20th, 2014
  8. ^ De Jong, David (2014-10-20). "Facebook's Jan Koum Apologizes for Past Restraining Order". Bloomberg. 
  9. ^ "The Memories from Rags-to-Riches by Jan Koum". Eyerys. Retrieved 2015. 
  10. ^ Olson, Parmy (2009-02-24). "Exclusive: The Rags-To-Riches Tale Of How Jan Koum Built WhatsApp Into Facebook's New $19 Billion Baby". Forbes. Retrieved . 
  11. ^ "Facebook acquires WhatsApp in massive deal worth $19 billion - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Abc.net.au. Retrieved . 
  12. ^ "WhatsApp Founders Are Low Key -- And Now Very Rich". Mashable.com. 2013-10-26. Retrieved . 
  13. ^ "WhatsApp's Founder Goes From Food Stamps to Billionaire". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2014. 
  14. ^ Wood, Zoe (February 20, 2014). "Facebook turned down WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton for job in 2009". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014. 
  15. ^ "Jan Koum Insider Trading Overview". www.insidermole.com. Retrieved . 
  16. ^ "January Kum: communist Ukraine to 19 billion Whatsapp | Network 2". 2014-06-15. Archived from the original on 2014-06-15. Retrieved . 
  17. ^ "No. 4: Jan Koum - Philanthropy". Philanthropy.com. 8 February 2015. 

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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