Whatsapp founder Jan Koum talks about their Journey

today's speaker we have yonkou yan is

the founder of whatsapp whatsapp as we

mentioned an earlier iteration of this

is the the startup that did everything

right after not getting after trying to

get jobs at Facebook and not for either

Yan or Brian they put their heads down

they figured out a product that people

really wanted and while everybody else

in Silicon Valley was going to

conferences doing PR whatever else it is

people do other than making a product

that people really love whatsapp just

quietly built this thing that was used

by how many people the time of the

acquisition 450 million people for a

consumer app and more than a billion now

and was acquired by Facebook a couple of

years ago and young can tell that story

but thank you very much for coming to

talk to us sure

thanks for having me so when someone

asked me to to come and speak here I

think I made some smartass comment how

I'm gonna speak about like people

actually building a product and not not

going to class or something like that

but SM mentioned we were just fortunate

in a way that we stumbled into something

that people really want it and I'll

explain in a second how would God there

but the credit really goes to not

necessarily us having some brilliant

idea I think the credit goes to like

also being in the right time in the

right place and building a products that

that people wanted and just realizing

that that people wanted it so just to

kind of give the the quick history of

how we got where we got we actually

boast me my co-founder bride who were at

Yahoo for about I was there for nine

years he was there for 11 years and that

time was actually really really valuable

for us to learn how to scale back up

servers how to what makes a good product

what makes a bad product and

kind of seen the the Yahoo as a company

get really successful then kind of you

know the story so well left in 2007 just

coincidentally we both left around the

same time like was in a month difference

and we took some time off we took about

a year off so so well after 2007 we took

all of 2008 off he moved to New York

with his girlfriend I was just like

goofing off and and I really kind of

fell in love with my Nokia phone it has

this this candy bar I think was 6610

Nokia phone that I jailbroke I installed

like an admin software on it which

showed you like which mobile cell you

were connected to and like all this

advanced things you could do with the

phone that you couldn't do when you took

it out of the box and so at the end of

2008 I went traveling I went to

Argentina I went to Russia to Ukraine to

Hungary to Israel to a bunch of

countries so I was gone for like two

three months on and off and what I found

with a hard during the time was just

keeping in touch with my friends

especially in Argentina I don't know if

anybody here is from Argentina or been

to Argentina like there you go so one

person what's with your dialing codes

like it's so complicated I could never

understand it and so when we're in

Argentina I just like having people call

us or me calling people was like I went

to got a local SIM card but I couldn't

figure out how people call me because of

these weird complicated dialing codes

and preferences and I was just like oh

so this is how 2008 ends and January of

2009 my birthday was coming up in

February and I figure like I'll get

myself an early birthday present I'll go

buy an iPhone so I went to Apple store

bought an iPhone and right around the

same time as the cake him out I think

there was no as decay when iPhone first

came out in 2007 but I think they

released it at September of 2008 so I

was like literally three four months

after iPhone came out sorry after iOS as

the cake came out I got an iPhone and I

started like tinkering with it I was

also really bored when I had a lot of

free time so I'm like okay well let's

install this weird thing called Xcode

luckily I had a Mac let's install Xcode

let's figure out what

what can be done let's build with some

simple app and then you kind of like

realize holy it has full internet

connectivity and it can do full tcp/ip

stack so it basically is a little

computer that can talk to your server so

I'm like okay cool what what can we do

is it so the first thing that we built

which I don't know how many of you knows

is a history of what's up the first

thing that we built was actually this

concept of a status and so the idea was

if you ever used and y'all might be too

young because there's a favored use

something like AOL AM or ICQ or IRC or

any of these products you have this

concept of a status like Yahoo Messenger

heads is like away from the keyboard or

I'm busy or am in a meeting and so the

first thing that you would do when you

use those messengers as you would like

the first message you would send was hey

are you there that was like the first

message you sent to start a conversation

with somebody unlike ICQ or if you

private message somebody on IRC because

people would be away and so they would

use the status to kinda indicate like

I'm not near a computer or I'm afk or

whatever and so the idea was like well

let's take this concept of status and

just like apply it to your phone so

before people call you they can check

your status like maybe you're busy maybe

you're in a meeting maybe you're

traveling whatever so if you don't pick

up of those people know why you don't

pick up and that was kind of like the

whatsapp 1.0 application and what we

built was the the app that hooked into

your address book so the other thing

that kind of worked in our favor was

there were address book api's on a

mobile phone they didn't really exist on

a desktop right if you think about

desktop like Windows from 2000 to 2008

ish people never really put address

books on their desktop

people always had address books on their

mobile phones and so even if the API

existed there was like nothing to query

because the address book database was

empty on all these on all these devices

and so luckily the the one thing that

Apple opened was their address book API

which was

great for us so what we did was sorry

basically went through the address book

and we could figure out if the contact

in your address book wasn't answer

what's up user and that's basically how

the status worked we would take your

phone number and if it was an

international phone number we would try

to like normalize it to the plus format

so your phone numbers would start all

the phone numbers in our system would

start with the plus in the full

international format and we will be able

to detect if the other person is a

person on a watsapp network a user of

our product and the idea was that before

you start before you start a phone call

or before you send a message you would

check the status of this person from

what's up and they would say oh I'm

available and you would call right so

that was a what's up one point no it

failed horribly like it was a disaster

it was depressing nobody nobody used it

people downloaded it actually

surprisingly enough and I think people

downloaded it because they were like no

apps back at a time so we're like maybe

I don't know a thousand or two thousand

apps and the whole app store because it

just it just went live so we we've

benefited from being early but the idea

wasn't so great so people would download

and they they just like never use it

people just call people like they

normally would it was really hard to

replace like a native dialer and that's

kind of what we wanted to do we wanted

to replace a native dialing application

so we we struggled for a little bit we

kept adding all these like weird

features in retrospect but then without

they were like the best thing ever like

you could set your status to

automatically change at a certain time

of day like if you knew you were always

in a meeting from like 2:00 to 4:00 you

could like automatically configure it to

always say that you're in the meeting

from 2:00 to 4:00 so kind of have like

that functionality and then something

happened around the summer of 2009 Apple

introduced push notifications so back

then if you wanted the application to

wake up there's only a way to wake it up

was a user tapping on an application

icon and there was no way to do anything

in the background which in retrospect

was really backwards because I don't

know if any of you know about Nokia

Symbian phones but like s60 and

Blackberry had all this capability even

before iPhone came out to do auto start

to do background

multitasking to do networking to do all

the stuff and so like iOS actually

limited what we can do so we were like

struggling and then Apple introduced

push notifications we were like

hallelujah so we ended up hooking into

Apple push notifications I think this

was like around the summer time even

before they were still in beta because

we had developer access and we we

noticed that people were using the

status as a way to kind of communicate

with each other they would change the

status to say like I'm going to a bar

and like the the change in status would

like broadcast and go to all the other

people who use what's up in their

address book and so around the summer of

2009 we were like huh interesting

maybe we should build messaging and then

it all kind of clicked because I've

always used as a mass and if you

remember on the old Nokia phones the SMS

was not threaded so you would get a

message would show up as a phone number

and if you get any other message from

that person it would show up is just

like another entry in your in your list

and then iOS came out and they

introduced threaded SMS and everybody

went like wow so we kind of said okay

well we can do full networking with the

new tcp/ip we can connect phone if your

phone is a client to to a server on the

back end we already had all this code to

figure out if your whatsapp user or not

we could take your phone number

parse it figuring out figure out also

like international preferences we even

figured out Argentina at some point

which was not an easy thing to do but we

got there so so we got we got to to a

state where we could actually send

messaging have people send messages or

what's up and if you look at our

application today you see all these

features they seem group chat is the

ability to send media to record voice

messages to do all the stuff we didn't

had any of it we didn't have like the

only thing we had was one on one

messaging that's it just think how how

antiquated that is and that's what we'll

lunch was so around September I think it

was September

ish maybe maybe late August or early

September is maybe even they were left

oh but actually I remember is when we

launched messaging and it took off and


it was intuitive to us why it took off

because SMS was so expensive back in

those days right and especially

international SMS so if you had two

people who were living in two different

countries how did they communicate well

they could send each other some as it

was expensive they could use Skype but

Skype also worked on a desktop so you

had to like synchronize the time when

both of your in front of a computer and

you know people usually are not like

some of you have computers open but if

you get a Skype call now you're not

gonna answer it right so there was

really no good way for people to like

communicate in real time and so that's

why some s was so popular because your

phone was always with you it was always

in your pocket it was always no matter

where you went you had your phone with

you so when you sent an SMS you never

said hey are you there like you never

did it you just send an SMS

the only thing sometimes you could say

is hey did you get my message because

system else was so unreliable especially

internationally and so that was another

problem that we could solve by building

on top of tcp/ip is we could add

reliability in our protocol so we rolled

out messaging we made it super reliable

we added all these visual indicators he

knew the message actually was

successfully delivered to a server Union

food was successfully delivered to the

device that you were sending it to and

and it just took off and and when when

Sam talked about like well we kind of

like when heads down and we didn't go to

conferences and we didn't do a whole lot

of other stuff it's just because we were

lucky we stumbled into something that

people really really had a need for just

think about SMS back in 2006-2007 right

there was no iMessage nothing else

worked on your phone SMS was expensive

it was horribly limiting you can only

send 160 characters at a time and if you

send a longer message it will break it

into multiple chunks and some tablets

sometimes like the chunk at the bottom

whether I first you have to like read

the message at the bottom and then reads

a message on top first

after that media was horribly expensive

and it was not working well across

platform so if I sent like the video

recorded on nokia phone to blackberry

users they probably couldn't have

watched it or if you send a video

recorded on blackberry to iPhone it

probably wouldn't work either so we had

all these limitations with a semester's

what we're trying to address in our

product and

obviously the biggest one was cost SMS

was very expensive in Europe and and in

many countries outside of North America

and we just kept going so once we

figured out that the reason it need for

it we were like well we better hire so

we hired some of our old friends from

Yahoo four who left Yahoo some of our

actually alkyl friends

we hired I hired a friend of mine who I

actually met when I was working at

Stanford like when I was doing IT at

Graduate School of Business in like 96

97 ish like when I was in high school so

he came and he helped work on a

blackberry client and so our goal was

like okay well we gotta build all these

features but also got to build all these

platforms because we started out with

iPhone but the world back then was very

different nokia actual was majority

smartphone platform back in the days not

in North America but if you look kind of

looked at the rest of the world

everybody was using Nokia smartphones

and blackberry and Android I think

didn't even exist or just barely existed

in the end of 2009 and early 2010 so we

had to build for Nokia and we had to

find people who could actually build for

Nokia Symbian s60 and we had to find

those people in Europe because nobody in

Silicon Valley even heard of Nokia so we

got like it we found two really good

engineers to help us build that finally

sorry about her Nokia client it actually

built on top it's actually built using

Python not a lot of people know that

actually Nokia is 60 head of Python

runtime so I remember when when Brian my

co-founder he was he started looking at

Nokia because we knew that we had to do

Nokia so he kind of went away for a week

he comes back a week later he's like

you're not gonna believe this you can

build you can build you can use Python

to build the client I was like no way

get out of here he's like no no no no no

seriously you don't understand you can

run Python on this little tiny phone I

was like okay let's try and do it and

that's what we did the the the basic was

the whole back-end the communications

the protocol was all in Python and the

you I was actually in C++ so we started

working on building multiple platforms

and we started working on building

features so we launched blackberry we

launched Nokia 60 will Android always in

a few months of each other in 2010 and

then we started building features so we

had to build

what people asked us to build people

want a group chat everybody's like this

is great I love your product I want to

have a group conversation with my family

or you know three friends or five core

workers or ten people in a study group

and we're like okay well how do we build

group job let's figure it out so we like

sit down and sketch the user experience

then figure out how to make the the

back-end system work for group chat and

then people want it obviously we had

very quickly we added multimedia and I

think multimedia is what really took us

to the next level like once we added

ability to send a picture which today is

like comical like how could you not have

ability to send the pictures through a

messaging product over your smart phone

back then you couldn't there was nothing

that worked really well

or worse cheaper was reliable so added

ability to send a picture

we added ability to send videos we at

some point introduced voice messages and

and then things just took off and so at

that point it was just scaling the back

end and this is where it kind of ties

into what I was talking about earlier

where me and Brian worked at Yahoo

because we spend so much time there and

because we were there in early days and

we saw the companies scale we had all

this experience to to scale the back end

and we had our own fair we had our own

share of outages and a service wasn't a

hundred percent perfect but we would

make sure that we would learn from an

outage and make sure that we would add

the right monitoring in place and we

would have enough capacity always for

holidays like Christmas in New Year's

where's the traffic spike but having

that experience working at Yahoo

learning how to scale the backend

systems learning how to tweak the

operating systems of kernels and

networking stack the ethernet driver if

you have to it's all kind of tied

together so our experience at Yahoo our

experience with difficult or challenging

a semester protocol that will used as a

consumer kind of all combined with this

perfect timing that happened in

2009-2010 with smartphones coming online

and people wanting to have this ability

to communicate and if you think about

smart phone it's ultimately like the the

messaging is a killer app for a

smartphone so we just basically stumbled

and do the killer app because there is

nothing else you do

was a smartphone then communicate most

most of it is probably talking to your

friends and family and your loved ones

these are over iMessage or whatsapp or

Skype or anything else yes we got here

huh could you make another up again that

takes all together like zero so the odds

are in the earth side so you should you

should go and do something so so that's

why we were able to actually spend all

of our time heads down

building a product because we had this

amazing product market fit we had this

amazing product that people wanted they

were like give me give me give me when

we were rolling out Nokia s40 which was

just like a step below Nokia at 60 which

was kind of like a feature phone people

were like emailing us asking for like

when is it gonna be done when is it

gonna be done when it's gonna be done

and so there was like a huge pent-up

demand for any platform before we would

launch it and so that's why we didn't

have like a need to go to the

conferences and do a lot of PR or or do

anything like that because we had people

who needed our product and we had like

millions of people who were waiting for

us to build a new feature or a new

platform and that's why we were able to

just go Ahead's up and go heads down and

and build a product so that was kind of

like the background that I wanted to

give on how we got started we can do a

Q&A for the next 15-20 minutes and yeah

most about is how you message what's

that was clearly first and I heard it

look and well not scary quickly how did

you think about that so how did we think

about iMessage and all these other

platforms well so was I message we when

did they launch to think 2011 ish

something like that I think 2011 at the

developer conference so the the world in

Silicon Valley

is very different from the world outside

so in Silicon Valley if you look around

like 90% of people have an iPhone not

only does it have Anaya phones they have

like a latest greatest iPhone outside of

Silicon Valley it's like 80 or 90

percent Android right so for us having

an iMessage launched was just like a

small blip on a radar so Facebook

Messenger so I think Facebook for a very

long time didn't really have a good

messaging story I remember they bought

this company called Beluga which I think

it was Beluga that was group messaging

so they were kind of focused on group

messaging at first and then they shut it

down and turn it into Facebook Messenger

but Facebook Messenger was part of the

Facebook app it wasn't really dedicated

app back in the days but ultimately if

you look at a facebook Messenger the the

graph that the Facebook Messenger is

using it's very different from the graph

on your phone and if you think about

people you add to your address book and

people who you add on Facebook there is

gonna be some overlap but for the most

part is gonna be different so people who

I add on Facebook are probably not

people who I'm gonna message with a lot

and people who I put in my address book

are people who are probably a different

graph in terms of like how important

they are to me and if I add you into my

basically if I exchange a number with

somebody it means that gives them

ability to like what's up me as some ask

me or call me there are probably a lot

of people who I'm friends was on

Facebook who's if they called me I

wouldn't I would probably like first go

like who is this oh yeah we we met each

other once and I added them I'm probably

not necessarily a typical example I mean

I'm sure there are people who have

different graphs on different networks

I'm sure there are people who use

whatsapp only for work and they only

have their co-workers on the what's up

on their in their address book and I'm

sure that there are people who only have

a certain set of their contacts in one

or the other but I think overall this

idea of like well if I add it to my

phone and you permission to interrupt my


is what makes our network a little

different because people are people have

these these connections that are

stronger with people who they have in

each other's address book with Facebook

you know I have people I went to high

school with I have people went to

university was and it's great that I can

keep in touch with them on Facebook but

I wouldn't want them to call me like

randomly out of the blue at 7 p.m. it

would be just like awkward because I

haven't talked to them for years so so

the graphs are different in that sense

and so so we always had kind of going

back and generalizing it will always

have competition from like day one we

there was actually a point in time where

there was a new messaging app popping up

like every month and every month it was

an article on TechCrunch how this

awesome new messaging app is gonna like

take down all other messaging apps and I

don't know if they paid tech knowledge

to write it or what but um and we would

just read this and we'll go like they

have no users how can you ride that

story in TechCrunch it just like makes

no sense and and obviously we didn't

want to say anything because we don't

want to draw attention to ourselves well

actually on purpose like try to stay

under the radar but it was just like

kind of funny to see this from from from

the sidelines all this kind of like dog

and pony show that happened with all

these apps I mean there was ping me

there was message me there was group

means there was kids there was they were

like hello there were like 10 different

messaging apps at some point which kept

getting all this publicity and we were

like good for you have the publicity

warrant we'll just Center the radar and

not yet not have any attention drawn to

us so we always have competition be it

big guys like iMessage or facebook

Messenger be it little guys like kick we

always have competition we always live

in today we still have apps like

telegram or out there and and line and

Kakao but what we said that our destiny

is really in our hands like we can't

worry too much about competition we have

to worry about our product and our users

and if you spend a lot of time thinking

about competition or looking at

competition we're gonna fail yeah and

also trying to build on what you just

talked about this social graph I mean I

mean I feel like this this whole social

graph and it's actually now changing

like I mean at least among me and my

friends I mean I think I don't call

people like

I believe sent them like you know SMS I

will probably have people mostly on this

social media like online Facebook oh I

could have an online chat apps like this

one seven more bye if you like this

whole social graph it is also like

changing slowly because people call

nests and people said SMS less people

like you do it more on this social media

platforms to you do you have a beyond

that and you think there's any like

opportunity on that or do you think

doing this she is even true so the

question was like how was it the world

is changing people coalesce and now like

people add like there's a social

networks will kind of merge into one now

yeah you're right I think people call

less these days and people most a

message each other I don't really know

if we would do anything differently

today or even back then I think for us

the focus has always been on like well

will we want to provide a utility we

want to provide an application that is

purely only about communication so if

you look at some other apps like be chat

or lion or cacao so they do a lot of

different things right

you can like order taxes through V chat

and you can follow people online like

mine has a whole feed concept and we

always wanted to like build something

that is really really efficient and

utilitarian and also fast and reliable I

mean not a lot of people can have the

latest and greatest smartphone right a

lot of people have Android phones that

are low-end a lot of people have or used

to have Blackberry phones they didn't

have a lot of horsepower and a lot of

memory and a lot of CPU so for us it was

always about reliability and efficiency

of the app and not trying to do all

these different things that a lot of

different social networks and apps do

think about messenger right now because

now that messenger integrated a lot of

the features about what's up hot I am

sorry to use much in here a lot more and

that definitely takes away from their

tone of what's up

so do you know during competition no I

think there is still a lot of room for

both apps to grow I think messenger is

really strong in countries like North

America like the United States for

example so I think we complement each

other geographically I think if you look

at countries like India or Israel or on

Kong or Germany or Spain whatsapp has

really strong foothold in those

countries and I think if you look at

something like Australia or North

America you're probably gonna see

messenger do really well so a lot of it

is also not necessarily split by a graph

but also by the country you're in

appreciate the humility that you

couldn't do it again with another app

but I I'm sure people ask you all the

time you know for help or advice how do

you determine if you hear an idea or

look at an application it's very simple

the question is how do you determine if

an app has a potential or is a good idea

it has to solve a really basic problem

and it has to do it in a really simple

and efficient way I mean going back to

what we'd built we in some ways solved a

problem right people had problem

communicating when they were not in the

same room when they were in different

cities or in different countries or in

different time zones and so it's not

that it wasn't impossible it's just it

was hard and it was expensive and we

made it easier and cheaper and when you

offer something to people that is easier

and cheaper people of course will will

use it so I think the number one thing

to look at for me when I look at a

product does it solve a need and doesn't

solve any it on a global scale right if

you solve a need for people on Stanford

campus that's great but can it scale to

a billion or two billion people if you

solve a need for people only in Silicon


by providing them chargers for their

Tesla's great how many people have

Tesla's in the world right it's got to

be like a global actually a lot of

people I don't know but it's got to be

like a global solution that applies to

everybody in every country potentially

right and so that was kind of like sort

of get wrong as you said in Silicon

Valley everyone's got the iPhone 7s or

whatever Oh No how did you build that

into the culture of the company to think

about you look up like it was the people

who were hired and that was other things

that I didn't mention that I should have

mentioned when it up was a really

incredible team that we mostly hired out

of our personal network from from XE

Apple and from my friends of friends we

I think ourselves had a really good

understanding I mean me myself being an

immigrant and like growing up when I was

a country and going to all these other

countries I understood that that there

was more to smartphone than just iPhone

that was like the things that everybody

talked about and wrote about in 2008 in

2009 it's like for me especially

somebody who really liked Nokia phones

before Nokia went out of business I was

like we gotta build for Nokia because

they're great phones and there's like a

billion Nokia smartphones out there so I

think just me and my co-founder having

that perspective probably distilled

through the company and people

understood that hey you know that you

don't want to just build for iPhones you

don't want to just build for the latest

and greatest you have all these millions

of phones out there

billions of phones out there that you

got to build for because you want those

users to be using your product and they

also were asking us to do that yes can

talk about the business side as far as

incorporation equity and raising money

business sure so we incorporated on my

birthday on February 24th of 2009 and

reason I like the thinking that was

going through and so let me back up we

were trying to submit an app into the

Apple Store and I didn't want to do it

under my own name like I didn't want the

app to say yeah I'm cool because I

figured like who would want to install

an app made by some guy so I figured

like we should probably be more official

we should have like a company I'm like

okay so go to Google how do you start a

company right it's just like step step

one so I got a friend of mine he was he

was an insurance broker so he had his

own company and he was like three blocks

away from me in Santa Clara were where I

lived and so I went to his office

because I used to buy insurance for my

car in my house from him and so I was

like dude how did you incorporate he's

like oh it's easy you take these

Articles of Incorporation it's like one

page was like five things written it and

you go to San Francisco to the State

Building as a secretary of state or

whatever and it gives them a hundred

dollars understand but then you're done

I'm like no way it can be that easy he's

like yeah it's that easy I'm like

alright so we had to submit an app and

and they wanted us to show like Apple

Store wanted us to actually send them a

copy of the incorporation articles so it

was like okay easy I'm nothing to do

that day I'm like drive to San Francisco

get lunch go to the office get a stamp

get a letter great send it to Apple they

they look at the letters that are like

yep you're legit you're a company you

can now submit under the name what's up

I'm not cool submitted in that

understanding what's up so that was how

we incorporate it in terms of in terms

of its it's easier than it sounds back

then it was like a struggle for me

because I never done it how did we think

about money or the whole funding thing

so we we left Yahoo with some savings

because Yahoo did really well in late

night is early two-thousands and so we

had stock we had options we had our

issues and so I was actually able to

like not only take a year off

obviously not do anything extravagant

but like live off my savings for a year

and then I had enough money

to where while I were still tinkering

around with an app and we didn't have

exuberant costs

I actually remember like when we started

out I was using my buddy a server at

this guy Chuck who also used to work at

Yahoo he used to run Yahoo Sports and so

like I used to sit next to the Yahoo

Sports team so we became friends so I

was like hey Chuck can I use your server

I don't want to pay 20 dollars a month

for a server he's like yeah sure so like

you know saving $20 a month on the

server was a big deal for me and so we

would run like originally on his server

and I remember at some point as we

launched messaging and like sold his

ghost he's like dude you got to get your

own servers in the Mignogna and I'm fine

I don't want to pay for my own service

he's like no no you got to get your own

servers you're like taking up all this

CPU and bandwidth and like I'm like no

no no I'm fine I'm fine

so answer like he kicked me out of his

the kicked me off his server and and

which was great because it was switched

from Linux to FreeBSD which well-loved

and we had experience was at at Yahoo

and so we were able to actually for a

long time live off our savings and since

we had all this experience on how to run

the company efficiently when it comes to

like servers and back-end and bandwidth

and everything there was not a lot of

expense the expense started when we had

to go hire people and the the idea was

that ok well we need we're gonna have to

pay from our servers we're gonna have to

pay for bandwidth we're gonna have to

pay for a semester if occation because

to sign up on what's up you have to

verify your phone number and we did a

small angel round Canton remember I

think it was end of 2009 we did a small

angel round and then we basically kind

of kept our company running without

losing too much money because in the

early days I phone app was actually paid

like people had to pay $1 to download

iPhone app while everything else was

free like Android and Blackberry no cam

and so we had people paying for iPhone

app and that kind of went to - it gave

us ability to pay for the bill - for

electricity for bandwidth bills for

server bills and all that stuff and I

think probably around 2011 2010 2011

people started knocking on a door

like we didn't even went out to look for

money which is a great situation to be

in because like if you're gonna go and

raise and you need money you're probably

not going to get the terms you want

which is you know for us was kind of

worked in our favor because all these we

see started coming we see started coming

to us and they're like you guys are

doing great

we want to partner with you we want to

give you money and we're like yeah we

don't really need it which makes them

want to invest even more so so so we

kind of play what kind of did this dance

where we're like no no we don't really

want your money come back in a few

months and and eventually like after all

these conversations me and Brian sit

down and were like okay well we we just

wasting their time in our time she would

just take funding or should we not and

we decided to shoot because it's better

to have money in your bank account for

your business than not and that's the

words of wisdom that I got from Jeff

Rossen who you know because Jeff was

like if you can have money in your bank

account you should money in your bank

account because you never know if you

need to buy a building or if you need to

buy some office space because you're

starting growing too quickly and you

don't want to negotiate and raise money

when it's too late like you want to do

it when you don't need money so

listening towards the wisdom of Jeff

Ross then we were like okay let's get

some funding and we partnered with

Sequoia and we got money from Sequoia

any any other yeah can you sort of walk

us through your like internal psychology

and confidence over the trajectory of

the company like at the beginning did

you identify that the market timing was

pretty spot-on or where you just sort of

like following what your users were

saying to you I think until we did

messaging when we're doing that Dinka

status feature obviously it was rough

because we had no users and nobody uses

our product and so you're like sitting

there in your room building a product

and thinking like well nobody wants it

like why am i doing this what is the

meaning of life and all that stuff

right and so and so you kind of like

it's it's tough right when you're

building a product that that people

don't really

you feel rejected if you like why aren't

you using it it's great I put all my

energy in it so so once we added

messaging it was like 180 degrees

difference right all of a sudden

everybody wants a product everybody

thinks it's the coolest thing ever we

get all these letters into our own email

inboxes all these emails from people

saying like how great your product is

I'm able to keep in touch with my

fiancee I got married because of your

product your product helped me like save

live because the hikers were lost and

the hikers were able to use whatsapp

share location to send like it's just

night and day right when people want

your product and they love your product

the the psychology inside a company is

just different like people would come in

to work and and they would be like we're

building the best thing ever people love

the product this is great and so we

didn't really have to do a lot of

selling even to the candidates like

people who came in to interview with us

basically fell into two camps people who

live in a Silicon Valley bubble and

never heard of what happens they'll be

like why would I want to work for what's

up and people who kind of fell into like

well there was a whole world out there a

bubble and they were like you guys have

millions of users like my cousin in

Spain or my friend in Germany was

talking about your product and everybody

uses it or people would say I went to

India or I went to Middle East and

everybody uses your product it's like

amazing how come nobody heard about you

and they're like well that's purpose and

so like basically I like these two types

of people who would interview and so

obviously people who had like a Silicon

Valley bubble didn't even want to like

come work for us which is not the end of

the world because there were plenty of

people finder stood there was a whole

big world out there and they were happy

to build product for hundreds of

millions of users all over the world


how was the fundraising experience why

did the partner with Sequoia so we've

had a few we had a few companies give us

term sheets one of them even gave us a

blank term sheet they're like fill out

the number you want and we're like well

if there's that that irresponsible was

other people's money maybe we shouldn't

we shouldn't do that shouldn't

partnering be partnering with them

Sequoia is just an amazing brand right

like for me living in Silicon Valley

since 1992 and reading articles and

seeing news about all these companies at

one public like Netscape and Cisco and

Google and knowing that a lot of them

were backed by Sequoia it just made it

not a very difficult decision to pick

Sequoia I've also really like people who

work there a lot of it is just personal

chemistry a lot of it is is the VC

company understanding how much to be

hands-on or not like Sequoia was

actually really great about like they

knew the numbers and you were growing

they didn't metal right they didn't need

to come in and say you guys doing this

wrong or doing that wrong like there was

no need for that and and I think we had

that understanding upfront whereas it

kind of made us a promise were like

we're here for to help you financially

we're not here to help you with

management when I'm here to help you

write code we're not here to help you

like build features we here just to help

you grow and to help you financially and

if you need any help

outside of that come knock on our door

and we'll try to help and they were

really helpful was stop when we asked

like recruiting or anything like that

they would they would sometimes meet

with prospective candidates and tells

them why they should join what's up so

so Sequoia was really great it was a

brand and and I remember actually when

we had multiple term sheets me and Bryan

went to jail for Austin's house and we

were we were talking to him it was late

in the evening we were trying to just

get advice on what should we do

he kind of like looked at all them and

we talked through all the different

genesis of them he kind of said you know

like once you're a Sequoia company or a

Sequoia company it's like that that

branding is really strong and it means a

lot yes there was no apps back then and

and iOS

well it wasn't iOS back then it was

iPhone OS and the Apple Store had this

category new what's new and the the

trick was to submit a new app like every

few days so you would always show up on

top of what's new and you would make a

small change to the name because I think

back in the old days the name difference

triggered you is a new app so will

basically have status and it'll say like

status for your smartphone

or like status for your calls or like

status for your iPhone or updated status

like we would basically Twiggs the name

a little bit with every new version with

submit which always like kept us almost

always at the top of the new category

and since there are no apps people would

go to what's new category all the time

to download to try to download whatever

people would build because like today

you have thousands of apps spec days you

had like hundreds and basically by

gaming the system a little bit we were

able to I think that loophole got close

really quickly but luckily by that time

already had messaging yeah how do you

like Scout up your company I mean how do

you scout like what's up in two

different countries so there were two

things that we had to do one we had to

build different platforms because there

were some countries were like I find

just didn't exist and everybody was

using either Nokia or Blackberry or a

combination of two the second thing that

we started doing early on is focusing on

localization right so again this kind of

goes back to like Silicon Valley bubble

where everybody in Silicon Valley speaks

English therefore the rest of the world

must speak English

not quite so we focus early on on

localization well actually hired people

internally into the company who were

doing two things there were customer

support representative so they would

help people with problems and and write

a fake use and help debug issues but

they were also all multilingual so would

hire somebody who was perfect in Spanish

and we would hire somebody who's perfect

in German and would hire somebody who is

perfect in Portuguese and we would hire

somebody who's perfect in Italian we

would hire somebody who is perfect and

all these languages where our apps were

starting to grow so we could build a

really good localized experience so when

you download what's up in in Brazil it's

not in English it's in Portuguese and I

think that is what helped us grow in all

these countries yeah your first year it

wasn't hard most wasn't were unemployed

so Brian joined so Brian left Yahoo and

he I think didn't really do anything for

like think you left in 98 so he didn't

really do anything for like 10 years he

was one of the early Apple engineers

that was one Chris my friend who went

from Stanford he I think he was doing

the startups that wasn't really going

anywhere and he was in LA and he got

married to this wonderful girl who was

parents are actually from here so like I

think for her it was an advantage to

move here to be close with your parents

so I'm like yeah you guys will here like

move back to Northern California so the

combination of like her wanting to move

to be closer to her parents unlike him

not really doing anything and not having

a full-time job also contributed this

guy Eugene who was one of our early

hires he he was working at a company

actually knew him from my social network

we are in still friends and like he

would always complain how how he hated

his job and how they were like trying to

screw him over by like promising him

stock options and never delivering it

was like he hated it so I'm like well

that was a good opportunity we had let's

see who else we hired this guy Michael

who was in New York

wasn't really doing anything also so he

was a referral through friend of mine

from Yahoo so there was this guy Michael

Rodman who I used to work with at Yahoo

who was working at a startup and Luke

would keep in touch and at some point I

was complaining to him how hard it is to

find good engineers that are smart and

capable and can get done and don't

just like sit there and theorize and he

was like oh I know a guy

Cole's got Michael in New York and so

like we randomly call this guy Michael

in New York and I'm like hey Michael I

got your name from other Michael like do

you want to come an interview and I

figured like he would say no I'm pretty

happy in New York but he wasn't really

doing much he's like yeah okay so he

came in and intrude and so we had let's

see we had one of the guys one of our

engineers was in Russia this guy Igor he

wasn't really doing much in Russia also

it's not like they have Silicon Valley

and Russia so what were like this band

of outcasts in some way like the group

of people who weren't really doing much

who got together and builds a product

but there were also people who were

working full-time who actually had to

like try with a heart to convince to

join like one one of the guys Rick who

helped us a lot was it backend as we

were scaling the back and he was working

at Yahoo and so like I think it took us

six months of meetings and dinners was

me and Bryan trying to convince him and

we would meet him and we would do it

like in a very subtle way not like come

join us were like ah you know we have

all these users and how was the skin and

we knew that he was like really really

technical and he loved solving problems

so we weren't saying like come join us

and you know we'll give you a lots of

mining or options or whatever we were

like playing a different angle but we're

saying like hi Rick if you watching this

we're like hey Rick you know we're

having all this technical problems and

we did it and we're like witches don't

know there was like this weird issue was

FreeBSD eight we're like it competes for

kernel resources with Erlang and Erlang

is trying to like run on this 48 cores

and we don't know how they're like

there's some contention and a kernel if

only we could figure it out we just need

some help and like and we knew that he

loved doing this kind of stuff right so

like so was him we played a different

angle it took us a few months to

convince him but eventually he joined

and he helped us fix a lot of

bottlenecks in our system so so there

were all different stories but I think

the bulk of the initial kind of core of

people who joined there were from our

professional and personal networks yeah

all right we'll go do one more question

thank you I want to understand your

users how you define it's a set of noise

how you find out the efficiency of

communicating is a core feature you want

to focus on for so many years and you're

absolutely right because in the early

days people would write in and say we

want user names over want pins because

people were so conditioned by all these

messaging apps and that came before us

that you need to have a user name or pin

so like if you were using bbm or if you

were using ICQ you had like some random

pin that you would have to exchange with

people or if you were using Skype or you

have a messenger you have to have a user

name and people didn't understand that

what we were building was like this

whole new idea of like you don't need

any of that stuff you just sign up with

your number and it's connected to your

phone that has the same phone number and

you go and so in the early days a lot of

feedback we did from users was useful

they're like we want groups were one

multimedia will want to have additional

privacy controls we want to turn off our

last scene great we've built a lot of

what people ask but what also didn't

build what people ask because we didn't

think it was the right fit for a product

like having the fundamental belief and

the gut feeling that what you're doing

is right and having that that like

vision of it's just gonna work I'm gonna

build it using phone numbers I'm not

gonna have user names I'm not gonna have

pins because it makes product more

complicated it makes product harder to

use people forget their user names and

pins and all that stuff like having that

that belief in yourself and in the fact

and knowing that that what you're

building is going to work is obviously

also important so that's kind of how we

would make decisions

okay you go and then told me to pick

that for the one game pass yeah yeah

what we've been about secret it usual or

futures it could issue of messenger what

I feel about security a shared security

issue for us well we as you know we

rolled out into an encryption and we

weren't the first ones to do it

obviously there were apps before us that

that focused on security but we were the

first ones to do it on such a global

scale for everybody seamlessly right I

mean there there is no other app today

that has more than a billion people that

has end-to-end encryption enabled by

default into everything you do

individual child's group chats and

everything else so we didn't start out

again this kind of goes back to what we

started with it was just a pure

one-on-one messaging right there was no

group chats

there was no multimedia there was no end

to end encryption there was no video

colons there was no voice phones there

was none of that but over years we made

a commitment to our users that we were

gonna add all these features and we're

gonna make some work and makes them work

really well and so obviously we feel

strong is that encryption is important

and we feel strongly about into an

encryption which is why we added it and

which is why which is why we have it in

our application today