They say revolutionary ideas come to a creative mind when the need is personal, and that is what happened with the creator of the world’s biggest messaging service – WhatsApp. Jan Koum, who co-founded the app with Brian Acton in 2009, revealed that the idea for the messaging app came about so he could stop missing out on calls on his new smartphone (read iPhone).
During the Computer History Museum event in Silicon Valley, Koum disclosed the real reason why he created what he created. “It started with me buying an iPhone,” he said. Well, the problem was not the iPhone per say, but the inability to let friends or family know if he was unavailable or busy. “I got annoyed that I was missing calls when I went to the gym,” Koum is quoted as saying in a CNBC report.
It was then that Koum and Acton decided to build an app that could let people know whether or not they were available through an easy-to-use feature called ‘Status’. “We didn’t set out to build a company. We just wanted to build a product that people used,” Koum said.
As is the case with a lot of apps, WhatsApp too did not become popular right away, even as it got listed in the honored Apple App Store. He recounted in front of an audience of hundred thousand people, “We were so excited when it launched,” he said. “And so disappointed when no one used it.” However, by 2014, WhatsApp lured over 400 million users globally owing to its seamless interface, and the ability to do away with traditional SMS. Soon, Facebook followed for acquisition.
When Koum was asked what he remembered most about the day WhatsApp was sold to Facebook about four years ago, he drew a blank and said, “It was all a blur. I don’t remember any of that except being in a room with lawyers for three days straight.” What followed was a fat cheque from Facebook, valuing more than $19 billion, to WhatsApp creators making it one of the most expensive deals in tech history.
Today, WhatsApp boasts a billion monthly active users on its platform exchanging not only messages, but also making video calls, sharing files, and uploading Status, all without ads. At the time of the sale, the founders promised that the messaging service will continue to remain free of ads. However, the company has found a way to engage enterprises on its casual messaging platform as well, with its recently launched dedicated WhatsApp Business app. In addition to that, it is also allowing business accounts attain a blue tick in a given contact list for easy identification. BookMyShow is one of the first business accounts to test the feature in India.