Private Equity and Edtech - what do they have in common and why they need to be built for anti-scale?
by Naveen February 7, 2023
1. WhatsApp was founded by Brian Acton and Jan Koum in 2009 after they left their job at Yahoo!. Funnily enough, both the founders were rejected in an interview at Facebook. As life would have it, their company would be acquired by Facebook 5 years later for USD 19 bn
2. The initial idea was to build a mobile address book that displayed statuses next to contact names, so that friends could let one another know if they were available or at the gym, in a meeting, in a crowded place, or with a low phone battery.
3. This basic idea metamorphosed into a messaging app once Apple launched push notifications in June 2009 and Koum updated WhatsApp so that each time you changed your status, it would ping everyone in your network. This “pinging-your-status” became a popular mode of exchanging statuses among the early users of WhatsApp, and Koum soon realized that he’d inadvertently created a messaging service.
4. The culture of the company was set by the founders – they relied completely on the product for organic marketing. They did the simple things right – while other chat messaging platforms had complex sign-up processes., WhatsApp allows you to log in with just your phone number. This is a great innovation that eliminates the need to remember usernames or passwords that other social media/messaging companies were not doing at the time. The user is then presented with a list of their phone contacts already on WhatsApp, so they can start chatting right away without wasting time creating new lists or connections.
5. While other chat platforms worked only on their software, Whatsapp had cross-platform functionality This gave a big boost to WhatsApp user growth, and within months the number of active users increased to 250,000 (vs its competitors like BBM which worked only on Blackberry).
6. When the user growth stagnated for a brief period in 2012, Jan Koum and Brian Acton’s integrity, loyalty, and respect for their users brought them the attention and love the app deserves. Their unique no add, no games, no gimmicks approach earned WhatsApp a special place in their users’ hearts
7. The founders were clear from Day 1 and believed that “Marketing and press kicks up dust. It gets in your eye, and then you’re not focusing on the product.”
8. This showed in their relentless focus on the product and how this translated into global growth from a user perspective.
9. The founders experimented with various pricing models – from keeping the product free to charging USD 0.99 per year to see as they saw exponential global scale for their product.
10. It was this growth that resulted in their ultimate sale to Facebook in the middle of 2015.Disclosure:
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