Rising Out of Hardship

There have been some pretty depressing news coming out of Ukraine lately. But today I’d like to focus on a more positive note. This is the real life story of Jan, (pronounced “yawn”), who was born in a rural village outside of Kiev, Ukraine.

It wasn’t easy being Jewish at that time and place so in 1992 sixteen-year old Jan and his mum moved to California with little more than some Soviet issued pens and notebooks so that Jan could go to school. They were probably so poor they couldn’t even afford to buy a vowel 😀 #SorryBadJoke

To make matters worse, Jan’s mum was soon diagnosed with cancer 🙁 and the two of them lived off her disability insurance and food stamps. Life was tough but Jan taught himself computer science with manuals from a used book store. Now that’s frugal 🙂 During one of Jan’s college years Yahoo! offered him a good job which he gladly accept 😀 Just when things appeared to be going well Jan’s mum passed away 🙁

In 2009 Jan applied for a job at Facebook but was turned down 🙁 Not to be discouraged Jan used one of his old Soviet notebooks to draw up plans for a new smartphone app he wanted to make. He and one of his close friend whom he met while working at Yahoo! developed a text messaging application that allows anyone with a phone to message anyone else in the world.

Their app became so popular that earlier this year in 2014 they received a call from Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook! One thing led to another, and last week Jan and his partner made a symbolic trip back to the social services agency where he and his mum used to wait in line for food stamps. And it was there that Jan signed the papers to sell his company WhatsApp, to Facebook, for $19 billion! Mostly in FB stocks, with a small amount in cash.

Today Jan Koum is worth $6.8 billion. Not too shabby 😉 considering how he came to North America broke as a church mouse.

I don’t use WhatsApp because I don’t have a fancy smart phone yet 😛 But it’s apparently very popular worldwide. It’s not just a random app people download, use once, and forget about. WhatsApp has 450 million active users! It’s also amazing how quickly they were able to acquire such a massive user base.

14-02-whatsapp whatsapp

I think the lesson we can all learn from Jan is that you can make a lot of money if you invent a popular app and sell it to a big company. If someone like Jan can do it, then so can anyone else right? So I’m going to try and do the same. Maybe I won’t become a billionaire, but we’ll see what happens. Here’s my general plan. Stage 1) Develop an awesome app. Stage 2) Get lots of people using the app. Step 3) Sell the app and profit 😀

How hard can it be? I have started stage 1 today. I just Googled “how to make a smartphone app.” From my preliminary research it appears I should learn how to program, which I currently know nothing about. I may have to go back to school to learn computer programming but that may be difficult since I don’t want to take time away from either of my 2 jobs. Looks like I have more planning to do.

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02/25/2014 7:11 am

I had a friend introduce me to What’s App last year… it’s pretty handy when you don’t want to spend money on texts, like when you’re travelling.

02/25/2014 12:26 pm

PLAN to realize that dream, and anything is possible! – Cheers.

Clarisse @ Savvy Scot
02/25/2014 5:37 pm

Wow, that’s a very inspiring story! I really believe in the saying “This too shall pass”, whenever you had a hardships always think that everything happens for a reason and you can pass that trial.

02/26/2014 5:58 am

Liquid, create a unique plan to develop your app and hire a freelancer to develop it. However, you need a smartphone to test its features, but you said you don’t have one. :D. So, buy a smart phone and familar with some apps first.:D

02/27/2014 11:35 am

If you are buying tech, never buy last years… always buy latest so it will be relevant longer. No I do not own a cellphone, but for all things tech this is the best policy to get the most out of your purchase. Just a rule I live by. Now if the tech is questionable, then I wait, but if it is proven, then jump in when I require it. – Cheers.

03/02/2014 4:48 am

Very inspiring post. I am looking forward for your new post which I can get more tips in improving my business career.