Jan Koum and Brian Acton are the founders of WhatsApp, the world's most famous messaging app. Its mission is to "empower people through technology and communication, no matter who they are, or where they live." How did this unlikely pair become two of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet? The answer: they had brains to disrupt the technology industry, and the guts to disrupt themselves.

Here are three smart ways to think and act like WhatsApp.

1. Avoid Schlep Blindness.

Paul Graham, cofounder of Y Combinator, is credited with this expression. He explains: "There are great startup ideas lying around unexploited right under our noses. One reason we don't see them is a phenomenon I call schlep blindness. Schlep was originally a Yiddish word but has passed into general use in the US. It means a tedious, unpleasant task."

WhatsApp understand that the best strategy is to just dive right in. Don't wait. Don't over think, and when you hit a wall, take a break or move into a new environment. To overcome schlep blindness, write your fears down and bounce ideas around with the team. Ideas usually go through a series of stages from "that's a bad idea" to "that's a good idea" and then finally "that's my idea". Ideas can be obvious but hard, easy, and overcrowded, or not obvious but hard. Be open to hidden insights: prototype ideas quickly until they make sense and remember most good ideas start as bad ideas.

2. Be A Failure Pioneer.

Koum and Acton are no strangers to failure and rejection. They are self-confessed failure pioneers. In the summer of 2009, Acton was looking for a job. For more than eleven years, the Stanford computer science graduate had been working at Yahoo, the social networking business, in various engineering roles. He used Twitter to share his news.

7:06 PM, 20 MAY 2009

Networking with recruiters, venture capitalists, playing ultimate Frisbee.

8:39 PM, 23 May 2009

Got denied by Twitter HQ. That's OK. Would have been a long commute.

8:14 PM, 3 Aug 2009

Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life's next adventure.

Whatever you choose to believe, life is anything but predictable. Just five years later, in a miraculous twist of fate, Facebook Inc. bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. Their story is a model for overcoming obstacles, fighting for what you believe in, and not giving up.

3. Make Your Own Luck.

Luck is a skill that can be developed. It's about a flexibility of mind and a willingness to listen to your heart and trust your gut. Take advantage of chance occurrences, break the weekly routine, and once in a while have the courage to let go. The world is full of opportunity if you're prepared to embrace it. What boxes are you limiting yourself to? Are you stuck in a holding pattern, drifting and at best not listening, not believing, and not leading either yourself or others? WhatsApp's remarkable journey is a hallmark of will power (determination) and way power (direction). They were the unluckiest entrepreneurs before karma came back in the form of WhatsApp.


A lot of failure starts with naivety but so does a lot of success.

Published on: Mar 15, 2017
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