Jan Koum - Ukrainian Founder of Whatsapp

Jan Koum - Ukrainian Founder of Whatsapp

Jan, along with his mother and grandmother, flew to the U.S. to start a new life.

Whatsapp is the go-to app of a lot of people when it comes to messaging. It is a convenient, low-cost app to reach people around the world more efficiently. And the reason we're talking about this app is (again) that it's the founder is an emigrant!

Jan Koum, its founder, is originally from Ukraine, and he moved to the US because of his Jewish background that made their family's life unsafe in their country because of anti-Semitism.

Early Life

Jan Koum was born on the 24th of February 1976 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

He was the only child to his Jewish parents, and they managed to live a simple, humble life far from the chaotic city of their country.

Despite their peaceful life, Jan, along with his mother and grandmother, flew to the United States to start a new life.

Building his career in the US

Moving at the age of 16, their family started to face financial challenges, which pushed him to work in a grocery store as a cleaner.

When Jan started high school, he has found his talent in programming, and by the time he was 18, Jan Koum was a skilled computer network engineer just by figuring out stuff on his own.

He took his college at San Jose University with a job on the side to support his studies.

Koum was assigned to Yahoo as a security inspector at the company's advertising system. A few months later, he got a job as an infrastructure engineer at Yahoo while finishing his college degree.

Jan Koum proved himself reliable in the company. He was the first man to contact when the company faced system breakdowns in the early days. As Koum became more preoccupied with his job, he decided to drop out of school and fully commit himself to his job.


After nine years of working at Yahoo, Koum and his close friend Brian Acton decided to quit their jobs to explore more possibilities beyond Yahoo.

The two applied for Facebook but got rejected.

In 2009, as Jan Koum browses his iPhone, the idea of creating a new messaging app slowly drifted to his mind, and that's when Koum and Acton started their own company - Whatsapp Inc.

Whatsapp, which was a name formulated from "what's up?' was launched in 2010.

As they were starting, the app met stumbling blocks along with the ways that even made Koum quit, but there was Acton who convinced him to stay and give it more time.

Because not many messaging apps like Whatsapp were present at that time, Whatsapp gained popularity fast. As its popularity increases, Koum and Acton were able to have sufficient funds to develop their product.

Whatsapp was steadily growing, and in 2013, it reached around 200 million active users.

Its popularity got the attention of another company, Facebook, and they offered $19 billion to acquire Whatsapp.

In 2016, Whatsapp was recognized as the most popular app with a 1 billion user base.


Jan Koum's story of how he persevered from being a grocery store cleaner to a billion-dollar entrepreneur is yet another motivation for us immigrants that there are no limits to how far we can succeed in life.

When you lean towards your passion and what you love to do, the advantage of being successful is far greater than anything else.

America has benefited such great people from immigrant refugees, and Jan Koum is just one of them.




Headshot of Daniel

Daniel De Biasi

Emigrant & Podcaster

Leaving my country is by far the best decision I have ever made. It was scary and challenging but totally worth it. I want to help more people follow their dreams abroad. by removing the scary bit.