Chatting with Jan Koum of WhatsApp
In October of last year, WhatsApp Messenger achieved a milestone: Users of the social-messaging app sent a billion messages in one day. Considering that little number, plus the fact that more than 78,500 people follow the WhatsApp Inc. Twitter page, it’s safe to say WhatsApp is a popular social app.
It’s surprising, then, that the app’s developers, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, keep such a low profile. Koum didn’t even have his first newspaper interview until November of last year, according to the Financial Times article.
Here at The Recapp, we’re impressed by the modesty of such masterminds (the co-founders are both former Yahoo! Inc. employees), but we’re even more impressed by the service itself. WhatsApp eliminates SMS costs, providing users with a text-messaging service that doesn’t damage their phone’s data bill. It’s a simple concept, but as you’ll read in our interview with co-founder Jan Koum, simplicity is key.
- What was the original inspiration for WhatsApp?
We wanted to build something simple and, at the same time, something very useful for people.
- What have you learned about your app’s users since its inception in 2009?
Well, we haven’t really collected any personal user data or metrics to learn from—we are not an advertising business. One thing we did learn, however, was that building a reliable service and great product is something people appreciate and value highly.
- Despite the competition from other highly marketed mobile messaging applications (from GroupMe to Skype), why has WhatsApp remained dominant in its popularity?
There’s no simple, singular answer to this. We were one of the first to market this type of app, and now, we are available on six different mobile platforms. Up until very recently, both founders were answering customer-support emails. We focus a lot on user experience, simplicity of our product and listening to our customers.
- What’s your favorite thing about WhatsApp, and what do you hope to improve upon in the future?
My favorite thing about WhatsApp is getting emails from folks who tell us how WhatsApp has changed their lives. We get emails from people who tell us how WhatsApp has helped couples stay in touch and get married, and even from people who tell us how they have used WhatsApp to help manage a charity in Africa.
- What advice do you have for young app developers?
Focus on simplicity, listen to your customers and iterate if you fail.
Besides WhatsApp, what are some of your other favorite apps right now?
On my iPhone 3GS, I use Instagram, Twitter and Touch.
Apps I Love
Eating Healthy is a Snap with Dr. Oz’s App Pick
Photo credit: Getty Images
Dr. Mehmet Oz, famous cardiac surgeon and star of TV’s The Dr. Oz Show, spends much of his time giving nutritional guidance to his show’s viewers and patients. But we bet he never thought advice could get as simple as “take a picture of your food.”
Dr. Oz told USA TODAY that he likes the Meal Snap app. Just use your smartphone to take a photo of your food in front of you, and the app calculates how many calories you’re consuming. Bam—food recording is done.
Of course, the app is not always 100 percent accurate, but we still think the simple act of recording our food helps us be more conscious of what we’re eating. You can share your meals on Twitter, Facebook and foursquare if you want some extra motivation, and you can even view your eating patterns over time.