Jan Koum is an American internet entrepreneur and computer engineer. He is the CEO and co-founder with Brian Acton of WhatsApp, a mobile messaging application which was acquired by Facebook Inc. in February 2014 for US$19 Billion.
Koum was raised in Ukraine, immigrating in the early 1990s to the United States when he was a teenager. Living on welfare and food stamps, telephone calls back home to Ukraine proved to be a daunting expense.
In 1997, Jan Koum was hired by Yahoo as an infrastructure engineer, shortly after he met Brian Acton while working at Ernst & Young as a security tester. Over the next nine years, they worked at Yahoo. In September 2007 Koum and Acton left Yahoo and took a year off, traveling around South America and playing ultimate Frisbee. Both applied, and failed, to work at Facebook. In January 2009, he bought an iPhone and realized that the then-seven-month-old App Store was about to spawn a whole new industry of apps. He visited his friend Alex Fishman and the two talked for hours about Koum’s idea for an app over tea at Fishman’s kitchen counter. Koum almost immediately chose the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “what’s up,” and a week later on his birthday, Feb. 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. Koum owns 45% of WhatsApp, according to Forbes. That means with the deal closed with Facebook (FB), his net worth was close to $7 billion.
What I find interesting in this story is the fact that years earlier Koum was like every other person, looking for a better paid job and even failed to get a job at Facebook, and later he sells an app to Facebook worth US$19 Billion! I don’t know what this does to you but to me, it is fulfilling to be an original not a copy!
You know, it is amazing how much the Chinese have popularized the culture of copying today! You can get anything you want, at the any rate. Interestingly we go for their copy most of the time with the pretext that they are affordable…don’t get me wrong, am not judging.
The same applies to us as individuals. We tend to go for the easy way out when it comes to our vision for our lives. We copy the things that have worked for others and apply to our lives, hoping they will last, but we get frustrated when we can’t keep up as new ideas come up and rival the ones we once thought were ideal.
When we dare to be an original we are in essence daring to be “our authentic selves” and everything that encompasses who we really are. Discovering our true selves will necessitate an introspection right to the source of all things.
This will not be so easy in the beginning because it means putting ourselves on the line, subjecting ourselves to scrutiny, judgment, changes, rejection like Koum and possible ridicule. It means exposure and vulnerability. I have had to remind myself of this truth time and time again, on those days when i looked at the progress and success of others and said to myself, why don’t you just copy that? Certainly there is more comfort to be found in conformity, lying low, and blending in with the crowd but here in is also boredom, complacency, frustration and the prospect of never living to your potential. I knew i cannot settle for less than who i really am and be happy, so i continued on the path of discovering what my unique promise of value is.
It takes courage and self-confidence to dare to be an original – to reveal your uniqueness and to show that you’re one of a kind.
As Steve Jobs noted in his speech at a Stanford University graduation commencement:
“Your time is limited; so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
It takes Faith, courage, audacity, persistence, resilience, focus, investment, study, pursuit to be YOU.
Don’t let a lack of self-confidence or self-doubt prevent you from pursuing what you know is best for you. Let go of your personal insecurities. If you strive to be someone you’re not, you will never be happy. Be yourself. Be proud of who you are. People who have a more certain and sure view of themselves live better, healthier lives. Life has a lot it expects of you, to live it trying to be anything other than your true, original self. Be who you are and celebrate your individuality and uniqueness.
Dare to be an original because You Matter!