Page 91 - IACC Newsletter March-April 2014 Issue 03

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We want a billion Indians on WhatsApp, says co-founder Jan Koum
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum took time off from his hectic schedule at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; on
what was his 38
th
birthday, to talk to Economic Times about the $19 billion deal with Facebook and what advice he would
give entrepreneurs. Edited excerpts:
Q:
It's said that you applied for a job at both Twitter and Facebook.
A: I was interviewed for Facebook but nothing really worked out.
Q:
What made you start WhatsApp? How did you hit upon the idea? What did you do that was different from other
messenger services?
A: I got an iPhone and I started to experiment trying to build an application for an iPhone. First, we focused on using your
address book. Everybody else was using user names or pin codes, like BBM... Skype you had to get an approval... these
were all complicated processes. We just wanted to simplify it. If you have somebody's phone number in your address
book, you are on.
We were the first guys to do it, we were actually the first mover. Everybody else came in and tried to copy us, but they
weren't successful. We were global from day one. We focused on translations, we added Italian, German, Spanish,
Russian, into the applications from day one because we understood that it's the power of communication that people
want to communicate with people in other countries.
We hired really smart people; our first set of engineers was extremely talented and allowed us to build a foundation that
enabled us to build everything on top of it.
Q:
What, if any, is the monetization strategy of WhatsApp?
A: Today, it's a simple one - we are free for the first year of subscription and then it's a dollar a year. There are no plans to
do anything else. We are pretty happy with this. For voice, we haven't finalized it internally yet but we might do something
different in terms of implementation but fundamentally it will be very similar.
Q:
Some are skeptical about the quality of voice services that can be offered by you. Please comment.
A: We are going to make sure voice works just as well. I understand that there are bandwidth constraints, network
constraints, but we will take the same approach to voice that we took to (messaging) five years ago, which is focus on
quality, simplicity, performance so that it's the world standard for voice just as messaging it's the world standard.
Q:
Would you have done the deal at a lower value?
A: The important thing to talk about here is not the price. Mark asked me to be on the board of Facebook and I'm
extremely flattered. We talked about this as a partnership and not as an acquisition. WhatsApp will continue to remain
independent. There are no changes planned to the product. Nothing really changes from the user point of view. And, so
when we were talking about this deal, we were not as interested in terms of the numbers but as a partnership between
two great companies who share the same vision.