Impossible is Nothing : Kisah Inspiratif Pendiri “WhatsApp”

jankoum“Tak ada yang tidak mungkin di dunia ini”. Agaknya ungkapan itu menyatu dalam kehidupan Jan Koum, salah satu pendiri WhatsApp, perusahaan penyedia layanan  mobile messaging. Kisah Koum menginspirasi siapa pun di berbagai penjuru dunia agar pantang menyerah dalam mengarungi kehidupan.

Ia lahir di daerah Kiev, Ukraina — negara yang kini sedang dilanda gejolak politik — pada 24 Februari 1976. Koum adalah anak tunggal yang terlahir dari keluarga miskin. Pada tahun 1992, tepatnya saat berusia 16 tahun, ia memutuskan untuk hijrah ke California (AS) bersama sang Ibu. Mereka kemudian tinggal di sebuah apartemen sederhana bantuan pemerintah di Mountain View. Hingga setahun di sana, mereka masih hidup terkatung-katung dengan mengandalkan layanan sosial untuk orang tak mampu. Bahkan, Koum dan Ibunya harus mengantri untuk mendapatkan jatah makan dari pemerintah.

Untuk mempertahankan hidup, Koum bekerja sebagai tenaga cleaning service pada sebuah toko kelontong. Sementara Ibunya bekerja sebagai baby sitter. Sungguh malang hidup keduanya, terlebih ketika Sang Ibu terdiagnosa menderita kanker. Untuk mengobati Ibunya, Koum mengandalkan tunjangan kesehatan.

Sejak SMA, ia senang belajar mandiri — terutama yang berkaitan dengan mata pelajaran komputer jaringan — dengan mengandalkan buku-buku bekas yang dibelinya. Bahkan ia bergabung dengan grup  hacker  dan   sempat  chating  bersama pendiri Napster, Sean Fanning. Setelah lulus, Koum masuk ke Universitas San Jose seraya mengambil pekerjaan sambilan di perusahaan  Ernst & Young.

Pada 1997, ia bertemu dengan Brian Acton, karyawan Yahoo yang pernah bekerja di Apple. Enam bulan kemudian, Koum melamar kerja di Yahoo dan diterima sebagai infrastructure engineer. Setelah dua pekan bekerja di sana, ia memutuskan berhenti kuliah; dan tiga tahun kemudian hidup sebatang kara karena Ibunya meninggal dunia.

Kematian Sang Ibu tidak membuat Koum putus asa. Ia tetap semangat  dengan memberikan pengabdian kepada Yahoo selama 10 tahun, untuk selanjutnya bersama Acton — rekannya yang memiliki kemampuan  programming — keluardari Yahoo dan mendirikan (perusahaan) WhatsApp. Namun, ada hal menarik dari keduanya, bahwa mereka pernah melamar kerja di Google,  tetapi ditolak.

Setali tiga uang dengan perjalanan hidup Koum, WhatsApp pun pernah mengalami kondisi finansial yang memprihatinkan. Sejumlah media di Amerika Serikat memberitakan bahwa,Koum pernah tak memiliki uang di rekening untuk biaya operasional WhatsApp.

Namun, pada babakan selanjutnya, WhatsApp mengalami perkembangan pesat. Pada Januari 2014, tercatat 450 juta pengguna aktif aplikasi pesan instan (WhatsApp) tersebut. Dan jumlah pesan yang diproses meningkat menjadi lebih dari 50 miliar (pesan) per hari. Angka itu disinyalir melebihi jumlah SMS yang beredar di seluruh dunia.

Meski penggunanya tumbuh pesat, WhatsApp tetap mempertahankan budaya perusahaan rintisan yang berbasis teknologi (startup). Perusahaan ini hanya memiliki 50 pegawai; 25 orang merupakan teknisi, sedangkan 20 karyangan yang menangani dukungan multibahasa untuk pengguna.

WhatsApp yang diluncurkan pada tahun 2009 itu memang bertujuan untuk menghadirkan layanan  chat  yang cepat, sederhana, dan bebas dari iklan sehingga banyak yang memanfaatkannya.

Pada awal 2011, WhatsApp mendapatkan bantuan investasi perusahaan  Sequoia Capital sebesar 8 juta dollar AS. Sejak itu, ia tidak melayani  investasi baru karena sudah mampu menghasilkan uang dari layanannya,  yang kemudian bisa menopang biaya operasional.

Pada hari Rabu, 19 Februari lalu (2014), Facebook mengakuisisi WhatsApp dengan nilai yang sangat fantastis, yakni sebesar 19 miliar dollar AS (sekitar Rp 223 triliun). Ini termasuk 3 miliar dollar AS dalam bentuk saham yang diberikan kepada pendiri dan karyawan WhatsApp selama empat tahun. Selain itu, CEO dan co-founder WhatsApp juga akan bergabung sebagai dewan direksi di Facebook.

Menurut Facebook, akuisisi terhadap WhatsApp itu dapat membantu perusahaan jejaring sosial ini menyebarkan kemampuan konektivitas ke seluruh penggunanya secara lebih cepat.

Facebook juga menyatakan bahwa WhatsApp akan tetap beroperasi sebagai perusahaan terpisah dan mempertahankan brand-nya.

“WhatsApp sedang mengejar jumlah 1 miliar pengguna, dan layanan (messaging) yang mencapai jumlah seperti itu sangat berharga,” ujar CEO dan pendiri Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

Sementara itu, CEO WhatsApp, Jan Koum, mengatakan, “Kami senang dapat berkolaborasi dengan Mark dan Facebook sambil terus mengantarkan WhatsApp ke lebih banyak pengguna di seluruh dunia.”

Setelah akuisisi tersebut, Koun diberitakan melakukan ritual yang mengharukan. Ia datang ke tempat antrian untuk mendapatkan jatah makan. Koun menyandarkan kepalanya pada dinding untuk mengenang masa lalunya. Perlahan-lahan air matanya menetes, dan ia tak pernah menyangka perusahaannya dibeli dengan harga fantastis. Koun pasti terkenang Ibunya yang rela menjahitkannya baju untuk alasan  menghemat.

Kisah hidup Koum membuktikan bahwa “Impossible is Nothing (Not Exist)”. Remaja miskin itu kini menjadi bilioner. (Wa Ode Zainab Z Toresano : dari berbagai sumber).

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