A brief history of WhatsApp's success involves food stamps and IKEA


While unlikely to become a movie, WhatsApp's $16 billion-plus sale to Facebook yesterday marks one of the biggest tech deals ever, and one that bears some resemblance to the working class success stories told by Horatio Alger. A new feature story in Forbes chronicles how co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton managed to do it all while squeaking by in WhatsApp's early days, and for Koum long before that. The short version: it wasn't easy.

From food stamps to Facebook

Before WhatsApp was founded, Koum briefly lived with help from welfare after immigrating to the states with his mother. And not too long ago, employees "wore blankets for warmth and worked off cheap Ikea tables" in a nondescript office building, Forbes recounts. WhatsApp also went through a period where all the expenses were running out of Koum's bank account, which eventually ran dry, something that was later solved with outside funding and incredible growth. When the paperwork was finalized yesterday, Acton and Koum signed the deal at a nearby social services office where Koum used to pick up food stamps. He now stands to make billions from the deal.

The Verge
Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.