One of the themes of The Big Disrupter is social activism by entrepreneurs. Another theme involves young immigrants from Ukraine and Russia in the high tech world. So I marvel when reality inserts a current day hero embodying these, in the form of Jan Koum. Brian Acton and Jan Koum
Jan is the founder of WhatsApp, the wildly popular free/cheap messaging app. Their biggest fan is Facebook, to the tune of $21 Billion, which is what they paid Jan and co-founder Brian Acton last year for the company.
Here is what is most impressive-Jan’s $556 million donation to charity this past year. This put him at number four according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which publishes an annual list of the fifty most generous donors.
Jan is a rags to riches immigrant tale, leaving a town outside of Kiev, Ukraine when ten years old with his mother to live in San Jose, CA. His father didn’t live long enough to follow them. Jan and his mother survived on hard work, food stamps occasionally, and inventiveness until she died of cancer.
Working while in college he eventually dropped out of school, did IT at Yahoo, met his future co-founder Brian Acton and eventually created their messaging product at night. Enormous success followed.
He, along with some other tech entrepreneurs, are making and giving money at an unprecedented early stage in their lives. And that’s what resonates with me. Because, like today’s social entrepreneurs, they are trying to make a difference now, rather than waiting decades until they realize they can’t take it with them.
Photo Credit: Forbes and Robert Gallagher for Forbes