Over the next nine years the pair also watched Yahoo go through multiple ups and downs. Acton invested in the dotcom boom, and lost millions in the 2000 bust. For all of his distaste for advertising now he was also deep in it back then, getting pulled in to help launch Yahoo’s important and much-delayed advertising platform Project Panama in 2006. “Dealing with ads is depressing,” he says now. “You don’t make anyone’s life better by making advertisements work better.” He was emotionally drained. “I could see it on him in the hallways,” says Koum, who wasn’t enjoying things either. In his LinkedIn profile, Koum unenthusiastically describes his last three years at Yahoo with the words, “Did some work.”
In September 2007 Koum and Acton finally left Yahoo and took a year to decompress, traveling around South America and playing ultimate frisbee. Both applied, and failed, to work at Facebook. “We’re part of the Facebook reject club,” Acton says. Koum was eating into his $400,000 in savings from Yahoo, and drifting. Then in January 2009, he bought an iPhone and realized that the seven-month old App Store was about to spawn a whole new industry of apps. He visited the home of Alex Fishman, a Russian friend who would invite the local Russian community to his place in West San Jose for weekly pizza and movie nights. Up to 40 people sometimes showed up. The two of them stood for hours talking about Koum’s idea for an app over tea at Fishman’s kitchen counter.
–Parmy Olson, in Forbes, on the early failures of WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, who just sold their messaging service to Facebook for $19 billion. Read more on Facebook.
We need your help to get to 5,000 Longreads Members.