WATCH: The Ukrainian Immigrant Who Sold WhatsApp to Facebook for $19.3B

Tyler Hayzlett
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Jan Koum is a Ukrainian-American billionaire businessman and computer engineer. He’s the co-founder and former CEO of WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app that was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for an absolutely mind boggling $19.3 billion.

Facebook paid $12 billion in stock and the rest in cash. What’s even more badass than the exit was the fact that Koum arranged for the $19 billion deal to be signed at the same welfare center he used to collect his welfare checks in his teens. Only this time, he drove there in his Porsche.

Jan moved to California from Ukraine when he was 16. As a young immigrant, Koum and his mother had to rely on food stamps. Koum became interested in programming and eventually landed a job at Yahoo! Where he worked for 9 years.

Then in January 2009, Koum bought an iPhone and realized that the then seven-month-old App Store was about to spawn a whole new industry for app creators.

WhatsApp was initially unpopular, but it quickly became one of the fastest growing apps on the market.  WhatsApp allows user to send messages, images, audio or video at a cost significantly less than texting.

The app gained a large user base. So large Facebook was monitoring the app for years obsessively. They were paranoid WhatsApp could eventually be a Facebook killer.


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