Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp, embodies a quintessential success story, transitioning from an immigrant with humble beginnings to a technology mogul whose innovative messaging app has impacted billions. His journey from the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, to the pinnacle of Silicon Valley innovation serves as a testament to the power of vision, determination, and the transformative potential of technology.

Koum’s professional voyage began at Yahoo, where he met Brian Acton. Their collaboration, rooted in a shared vision for a simple, effective communication tool, led to the creation of WhatsApp. Launched on Koum’s birthday in 2009, WhatsApp quickly evolved from a status update application to a comprehensive messaging platform. Its simplicity, reliability, and privacy-focused design resonated with users worldwide, propelling the app to unprecedented success. The acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook in 2014 for $22 billion marked a significant milestone, not only financially for Koum and Acton but also in the broader context of social media and communication technology.

Beyond his entrepreneurial achievements, Koum is recognized for his significant philanthropic efforts, albeit often conducted discreetly. His contributions, particularly in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis and towards Jewish charitable organizations , highlight his commitment to leveraging his success for broader humanitarian and community support. Koum’s donations have supported a range of causes, from aiding Ukrainian refugees and evacuees to bolstering Jewish communities globally. His philanthropy, characterized by considerable donations to organizations like the European Jewish Association and the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, underscores a deep-seated desire to give back to communities and causes close to his heart.

However, in the wake of his departure from WhatsApp and an illustrious career marked by innovation and a keen sense for the next big thing in tech, Koum has quietly shifted his focus towards a new venture that is as intriguing as it is shrouded in secrecy: Newsland.

Newsland, led by Michael Abramson, a former Sequoia Capital partner and an old ally of Koum from the WhatsApp investment days, represents a significant pivot for Koum. The venture is a stark departure from Koum’s background in social messaging and encryption, venturing instead into the complex world of investments and, potentially, media. While Koum and Abramson have maintained a low profile about Newsland’s operations, regulatory filings and insider accounts have begun to paint a picture of a burgeoning empire that could redefine Koum’s legacy in the tech world.

Koum’s foray into Newsland is not merely a post-retirement hobby but a calculated move into the investment realm, leveraging his vast wealth estimated at around $15 billion. With Abramson at the helm, Newsland has rapidly positioned itself as a formidable player in tech investments, holding nearly $10 billion in public equities spanning giants like Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta, alongside a growing portfolio of early-stage startups. This strategic diversification reflects Koum’s vision of not just preserving his wealth but actively growing it and influencing the tech ecosystem from a new vantage point.

The inception of Newsland ties back to Abramson’s departure from Sequoia Capital amid the COVID-19 pandemic and his subsequent collaboration with Koum. Their partnership, based on mutual respect and a shared discreet approach to business, has propelled Newsland into the spotlight, albeit with the duo preferring to keep the firm’s operations under wraps. The firm’s rapid growth and ambitious investments signal a bold new chapter for Koum, one where he wields influence not as the face of a globally dominant app but as a key figure behind the scenes shaping the future of tech.

Newsland’s investment strategy, while primarily focused on tech equities, reveals a nuanced understanding of the market and a willingness to venture into early-stage startups and cryptocurrencies. This approach mirrors the tech landscape’s dynamism and Koum’s knack for identifying and backing winning innovations. Despite the firm’s expansive portfolio, Koum and Abramson have maintained a level of secrecy that has become a hallmark of their professional ethos, choosing to let their investments speak for themselves.

However, Newsland’s journey has not been without its challenges. The firm’s reported position in FTX, the crypto exchange that spectacularly collapsed, underscores the risks associated with high-stakes investment in volatile sectors. Yet, such setbacks seem to have done little to deter Koum and Abramson’s ambitions, as Newsland continues to actively engage with startups and explore new investment opportunities, all while maintaining a discreet profile that belies the firm’s growing influence in tech circles.

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    The author is a manager in the software industry with international expertise: Authorized officer at one of the large consulting firms - Responsible for setting up an IT development center at the Bangalore offshore location - Director M&A at a software company in Berlin.