clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A brief history of WhatsApp's success involves food stamps and IKEA

New, 27 comments
whatsapp (stock 1020)
whatsapp (stock 1020)

While unlikely to become a movie, WhatsApp's $16 billion-plus sale to Facebook yesterday marks one of the biggest tech deals ever, and one that bears some resemblance to the working class success stories told by Horatio Alger. A new feature story in Forbes chronicles how co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton managed to do it all while squeaking by in WhatsApp's early days, and for Koum long before that. The short version: it wasn't easy.

From food stamps to Facebook

Before WhatsApp was founded, Koum briefly lived with help from welfare after immigrating to the states with his mother. And not too long ago, employees "wore blankets for warmth and worked off cheap Ikea tables" in a nondescript office building, Forbes recounts. WhatsApp also went through a period where all the expenses were running out of Koum's bank account, which eventually ran dry, something that was later solved with outside funding and incredible growth. When the paperwork was finalized yesterday, Acton and Koum signed the deal at a nearby social services office where Koum used to pick up food stamps. He now stands to make billions from the deal.