Thursday, February 20, 2014


A detailed inside look at the founders and early days of the startup. The team is only 50 people. Over half of the $19 billion from Facebook will go to the two founders (both Yahoo! alums), and I'd guess at least a billion or two will be split by the rest of the team. The rest will go to investors: Sequoia + angels.
Forbes: ... The two sat at Acton’s kitchen table and started sending messages to each other on WhatsApp, already with the famous double check mark that showed another phone had received a message. Acton realized he was looking at a potentially richer SMS experience – and more effective than the so-called MMS messages for sending photos and other media that often didn’t work. “You had the whole open-ended bounty of the Internet to work with,” he says.

He and Koum worked out of the Red Rock Cafe, a watering hole for startup founders on the corner of California and Bryant in Mountain View; the entire second floor is still full of people with laptops perched on wobbly tables, silently writing code. The two were often up there, Acton scribbling notes and Koum typing. In October Acton got five ex-Yahoo friends to invest $250,000 in seed funding, and as a result was granted cofounder status and a stake. He officially joined on Nov. 1. (The two founders still have a combined stake in excess of 60% — a large number for a tech startup — and Koum is thought to have the larger share because he implemented the original idea nine months before Acton came on board. Early employees are said to have comparatively large equity shares of close to 1%. Koum won’t comment on the matter.)

The pair were getting flooded with emails from iPhone users, excited by the prospect of international free texting and desperate to “WhatsApp” their friends on Nokias and BlackBerries. With Android just a blip on the radar, Koum hired an old friend who lived in LA, Chris Peiffer to make the BlackBerry version of WhatsApp. “I was skeptical,” Peiffer remembers. “People have SMS, right?” Koum explained that people’s texts were actually metered in different countries. “It stinks,” he told him. “It’s a dead technology like a fax machine left over from the seventies, sitting there as a cash cow for carriers.” Peiffer looked at the eye-popping user growth and joined.

Through their Yahoo network they found a startup subleasing some cubicles on a converted warehouse on Evelyn Ave. The whole other half of the building was occupied by Evernote, who would eventually kick them out to take up the whole building. They wore blankets for warmth and worked off cheap Ikea tables. Even then there was no WhatsApp sign for the office. “Their directions were ‘Find the Evernote building. Go round the back. Find an unmarked door. Knock,’” says Michael Donohue, one of WhatsApp’s first BlackBerry engineers recalling his first interview. ...


Al_Li said...

Red Rock Cafe is on the corner of Castro and Villa, not California and Bryant. I have been there, since I used to live a few streets down.

Richard Seiter said...

I wonder if this is the same person as "Brian Accton" on this roster:

chartreuse1737 said...

never heard of it. thank god. the bubble economy continues. it has been discovered by a certain group that stock promotion is as good as a real company behind the stock. facebook, twitter, etc. will never pay except via the greater fool.

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