As businessmen, WhatsApp founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum are doing pretty well for themselves. Since its launch in 2009, the mobile messaging app has garnered 250 million active users amongst Iphone, Blackberry, Android, Nokia and Windows Phone owners. The app has more users than does Twitter (200 million), the social-networking site that launched in 2006 and has nearly matched the total amount of active users on Skype (280 million), which launched in 2003.
WhatsApp allows users to exchange video message, audio notes, photos and hold group chats. Meanwhile, the fact that it allows people to work around long distance messaging charges (since the app lets users contact any person that has the app for no extra charge apart from the $1 download fee) means that WhatsApp has real staying power in the mobile app game.
With that in mind, it's fair to say that the two ex-Yahoo!-employees-turned-entrepreneurs have enjoyed a great amount of success in their four years working with WhatsApp. And here's the kicker, they could have much more success and money if they really want to.
As Business Insider deputy editor Nicholas Carlson pointed out, Acton and Koum could probably make over a billion dollars if they'd agree sell their company to one of the big boys, like Google or Facebook, or if they accepted money from venture capitalists, guys who live to invest in startups like WhatsApp. The two would rather not, though, especially when these options could mean sacrificing their ideals.
"When we sat down to start our own thing together three years ago we wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse," a blog on the WhatsApp official website read. "We wanted to spend our time building a service people wanted to use because it worked and saved them money and made their lives better in a small way. We knew that we could charge people directly if we could do all those things. We knew we could do what most people aim to do every day: avoid ads."
The blog indicates that the two founders had grown to dislike ads when they were at Yahoo! and would spend much of their time configuring ads, while they also regarded ads as "insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought." Furthermore, Acton and Koum exposed the lengths to which other companies go to grab users' information so they can advertise to them accordingly.
"At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out."
And while the two entrepreneurs could be making hundreds of millions of dollars more, it seems clear that the accomplishment of staying true to themselves and not selling out is priceless.
"At WhatsApp, our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the little intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That’s our product and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it."
Photo via Phonehouse.es