Six quotes explain why WhatsApp’s CEO is now a billionaire and you’re not

Jan Koum: a perfect match for Facebook?
Jan Koum: a perfect match for Facebook?
Image: AP Photo/Patrick Sison
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WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum has made some notable public pronouncements in recent years as mobile message app raked in users. He’s been especially outspoken in his opposition toward ad-sponsored business models and his relentless focus on building a high-performing product. Here’s a bit of what he’s said, which might give you a better sense of the kind of business Facebook is getting for their $19 billion in cash and stock.

  • “We focus a lot on the quality of experience, speed, reliability. It’s not sexy from a lot of people’s perspective, it’s not glitzy in the feature set, but it’s what people come to rely on,” Koum told the Financial Times in an interview (paywall) back in November.
  • “We view monetization as five, 10 years down the road. We’re trying to build a sustainable company that’s here for the next 100 years,” he told the Wall Street Journal about three months ago. In the same interview, Koum told the WSJ  he had “no plans to sell, IPO, exit, [get new] funding.”
  • “We do have a manifesto opposing advertising,” Koum said, according to an April 2013 report from German wire service DPA. “We’re proud of that. Who likes advertising? We’re so bombarded with ads so much in our daily lives and we felt that smartphones aren’t the place for that.”
  • “It’s not hard to sell a company, but if you look at [leading online] companies today like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter, they didn’t sell. They stuck around and built a great offering for users,” Koum told David Rowan of Wired, back in January.
  • “‘We are providing a richness of experience and an intimacy of communication that e-mail and phone calls simply can’t compare with,” Koum told the New York Times in December 2012.
  • “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing,” Koum wrote on the company’s blog today, after the deal news broke.

It will be quite some time before this deal is eventually scored a brilliant move or a misstep. But for the moment, Facebook seems to have fully embraced Koum’s approach to continuing to build out WhatsApp. In the conference call held this evening with analysts, Facebook CFO David Ebersman said WhatsApp will be under no short-term pressure to produce profits. “It hasn’t been and won’t be the top priority to optimize revenue in the short-term,” Ebersman said.