Two years ago Jan Koum, founder of WhatsApp was already a guest of DLD and announced not to sell his company. Just three weeks later he announced a 19 billions Dollar deal with "a small company called Facebook". What has changed? In conversation with Cade Metz (WIRED) Jan Koum gave us deeper insights into the company.
WhatsApp has joined the Facebook group in the beginning of 2014 and since has doubled its users. Facebook helped to focussed on growth and to make the product better, Jan Koum explained. WhatsApp was able to execute a vision, e.g. voice calls and a web client in 2015. The company was now enabled to use a large infrastructure provided by Facebook instead of buying servers over servers. They are still operating like a start-up when it comes to the core developments but now can use HR and other services of Facebook. WhatsApp still supports all the customers but now with better infrastructure, e.g. sharing images and videos via text messages can be really expensive. With WhatsApp you have no texting fees and it's easy to use. 6 months ago WhatsApp integrated voice calls into its app, but it's not done with the integration. It's an ongoing process of iteration and continuing to improve the overall experience.
Did you know, North America was really surprised as the WhatsApp-Facebook-Deal was announced two years ago? North America wasn't aware of WhatsApp, a lot of people never heard of them before. It was a total surprise to a lot of people but now it's one of the TOP10 countries in growth. But Jan Koum answered that WhatsApp is not focussed on only one specific country, they are focussed on the product and its improvement. Mentioning the business model of WhatsApp, Jan Koum announced to drop the annual 1 $ fee for WhatsApp! Facebook made it possible to make the product better and it's not necessary anymore to focussed on monetization. WhatsApp wants to be used globally and often people don't have bank accounts or are able to pay a fee. WhatsApp thinks of itself as a global communication tool and don't want to exclude people from communicating because of a lack of money.
Nevertheless WhatsApp needs to earn money out of it. That's way Jan Koum announced to allow business to communication directly with customers as a new business model. Think about restaurants and reservations or credit card usage in other countries - you always have to dial or dial-back to the companies to ensure the reservation at the right time with the right amount of people or that it's really you spending money with the specific credit card. WhatsApp could be an easier way to do it - a better customer experience.
Facebook's Messenger looks like a little clone of WhatsApp, Cade provokes. But Jan countered, WhatsApp is still independent. It was part of the deal and the fundamental difference between Messenger and WhatsApp still existst - WhatsApp is based on telephone numbers, Messenger on an ID-thingy. Yes, WhatsApp is mobile only, Messenger can be used on desktops and mobiles - and both will stay, Jan Koum predicted. They are just two different options to communicate.