Today WhatsApp messenger turns ten years old. During this time, he managed to gain a billion users, gained worldwide popularity, finished off SMS and sold "Facebook" for insane money. And it was created by one American and three natives of the USSR: Ukrainian Jan Kum and Russians Alex Fishman and Igor Solomennikov.
The birth of the messenger
Jan grew up in the Kyiv region, in the family of a housewife and a foreman who led the construction of schools and hospitals. He spent his childhood during the restructuring, and the house did not have electricity or hot water. Those were difficult times, the political situation and anti-Semitic sentiments in the country forced the family to emigrate godfather in the 1990s. He came to the United States with his mother and settled in mountain view — the city's largest technology companies and minds.
However, with the move nothing has changed: the same small apartment with Spartan conditions. Except that no problem with power.
To survive, both went to work — Jan's mother got a job as a nanny, and he as a janitor in the store. In parallel, the godfather finished in school but has quickly earned a reputation as a bully and with peers almost did not communicate. The free time he spent in libraries, which lent books on the functioning of computer systems. Kum began programming at the age of 19 and soon got into the group of hackers w00w00.
Jan Kum (far right) at DefCon hacker conference, 1999
After high school, Ian went to the University of San Jose and got a job in the Department of information security Ernst & Young. In 1997, he met Brian Acton, a Yahoo employee. He offered Jan to analyze the advertising platform on the resource. Kum took over and managed. Six months later, he was enlisted in the state — of course, not without the protection of Acton. Soon before the Ukrainian got the first serious choice: to quit school for a career or try to combine? In those days, Yahoo servers sagged under load and required an intelligent engineer. So the answer was obvious-work is more important than the diploma.
But in the end, Ian got tired of working for Yahoo, Brian-too. Guys managed to become friends, in 2007 left together. However, Kum went not with empty hands: he had accumulated $400 000.
Soon in the hands of Jan got iPhone. He realized that the smartphone has great potential. In those years, the godfather was fond of Boxing, and the owners of the hall forbade the use of mobile phones. The future startup was annoyed that he missed important calls. Then the godfather thought: and not to create an application that shows its status? Let's say "busy," "free," or "in training." So people wouldn't call in vain. The name was born by itself: WhatsApp — "what's going on?".
At that time, Ian often talked with the former Russian Alex Fishman — he arranged an evening of "pizza and cinema" for the local Russian community. At these parties, coom, and Fishman often discussed the idea of a new application. Once Alex brought Jan to the developer of mobile programs-Russian Igor Solomennikov. He had to help in programming-Ukrainian lacked skills in this matter.
Alex Fischer and Jan Koum at Startup Grind Europe
On February 24, 2009, Yang Kum established WhatsApp Inc in California. a month later, the first version of the app appeared in the App Store. However, it downloaded only hundreds of friends, which is Kum get-togethers with pizza excitedly talked about "up again I". The number of users did not grow — the startup thought that in vain hoped for himself, and already began to give up. Sharing his disappointment with Acton, he was about to look for work again, as He had given friendly advice — to wait for a little.
Unexpectedly, Apple introduced a new feature in iOS: push notifications. And it saved WhatsApp.
When users change statuses, the program has sent a push notification to contacts from the phonebook. Americans liked the feature: they finally began to use the app to show updated statuses to each other. In a few months, WhatsApp was installed on 250,000 phones.
At this point, Koum realized he'd inadvertently created a mobile messenger. In 2009, few people knew about this method of communication. Brian Acton also saw the incredible potential in WhatsApp and realized-you can make a full alternative to SMS and MMS.
Brian Acton, WhatsApp co-founder
Taking advantage of the situation, Koum released WhatsApp 2.0 with a messaging functionality. The user base grew, the guys came investors. The Duo rejected tempting offers: wanted to see the application without advertising and was afraid to make money — not to dance to someone else's tune. However, Jim Goetz of the Sequoia Capital venture Fund persuaded Kum and Acton to take eight million dollars, promising not to interfere in the management policy of the startup. It was in April 2011.
In November 2011, the app climbed to the top of iOS apps and was downloaded 10 million times on Android. In July 2013, Kum and Acton received another $50 million from Sequoia.
Lifting the old ties with Yahoo, the partners found the "office" — a couple of rooms in a converted warehouse in San Jose, and they did not settle the Evernote service, ate the rest of the meters. Michael Donahue, one of the first developers of WhatsApp for BlackBerry, recalled how he explained the way: "Find the Evernote building. Go around it. Behind you will see a door without a sign. Knock."
No profit. After all, Kum and Acton openly expressed dislike for advertising-apparently, the experience of working in Yahoo. In an interview with Fast Company, a native of Kyiv said he sees smartphones as" very personal devices " that are inappropriate to use as a banner provider. He explained, "When you get a message from a loved one, family member, or best friend, you want to respond right away without being distracted by ads." Instead of" easy money", the founders focused on WhatsApp itself. Jim Goetz motivated it this way:
When we started working with WhatsApp in January 2011, It had more than a dozen direct competitors, all supported by advertising. In Botswana, Africa alone, there were 16 social media apps. Ian and Brian ignored the General trend. In order not to show ads to target users, they preferred the opposite approach — they took a dollar for the application.
managing partner at Sequoia Caiptal
The first few years the founders worked for free-there was no income. As well as special expenses: basically the budget went to sending SMS with a confirmation code at registration. Services like Click-a-Tell asked for two cents for sending one message in the United States, and the Middle East has already cost 64 cents.
By the beginning of 2010, the startup learned to earn, but the amounts were modest — five thousand dollars a month. Ian and Brian took their time experimenting with monetization. We wanted to understand how the audience is interested in a particular function of the application.
The tactics were incredibly effective. Although the promotion is not invested a cent, users are willing to download the messenger and recommended to each other.
How conquered the world
We remind you that WhatsApp was not originally intended for messaging, but that's what people wanted. Based on 2G and 3G technologies, the messenger allowed users to bypass the "fences" piled up by mobile operators. Among foreign communication providers, it was a good form to raise the cost of SMS during peak hours or to set draconian limits. For example, in Singapore, some customers were prohibited from sending more than 100 messages per month, and the government of India set a threshold of 10 text messages per day during the holidays.
WhatsApp abolished these barriers and suggested that, on average tariffs. And screwed a bunch of cool services: from group chat to sharing tracks and videos. Besides, it was easy to use the program. It is now all used to that for registration in the service is enough phone number. Previously, passwords, email, and personal data were required.
But the main feature of WhatsApp messenger run on all the platforms, linking the "Yabloko", " androiddev" and even "blackberries".
Therefore, the brainchild of the godfather and Acton's ousted from BlackBerry BBM and Apple's iMessage — these alternative SMS Purcell only on native systems. Startups at an early stage realized that you can not miss a huge database of smartphones connected to the Internet. They immediately developed WhatsApp so that It functions on different platforms and phones — even the oldest.
The rapid growth of WhatsApp has attracted the attention of Facebook. In February 2014, the company was purchased for an insane $19 billion to gain access to 500 million users. Soon there were more than a billion customers. Analysts then wondered: what made Zuckerberg pay so much money for an ordinary messenger? In the end, we realized it was a"move forward". Firstly, WhatsApp will not become a competitor to Facebook, and secondly, it will not outbid Google. Mark said that "the purchase of the century":
WhatsApp is the only app that has more engaged and regular users than Facebook itself. Based on our experience of building global services with strong growth and engagement, we are confident that WhatsApp is on track to reach a billion audience in the next few years.
CEO of Facebook
Startupers widely celebrated the deal with Zuckerberg. That day Igor Solomennikov — the one who met Jan at the Russian party-posted on Instagram a photo with two boxes of expensive champagne. A few days later, the team of WhatsApp has exploded in Barcelona at MWC, where the godfather celebrated the merger of their 38 anniversary.
The founder of Facebook is not lost — by 2017, WhatsApp got his "yard". Now he's swinging at one and a half. But another attack came. On the one hand attacking fakes and fake news, on the other — on the high-speed "cart" catches up with Pavel Durov. WhatsApp will have to try to live up to the 20th anniversary. Will it work? Let's see in 2029.