Facebook Buys WhatsApp for €19 Billion

I’m still a bit rattled by the money paid for WhatsApp.

$19 billion.  What is that?  Nineteen thousand million dollars.  It’s the sort of figure I genuinely can’t get my head around and yet, last night, as I shared a half gallon of delicious black nectar with an old friend, he put it in context for me.

It’s not all that much, he said.

Not all that much? I replied.  Not all that much?  Nineteen billion dollars is, what, about €14 billion?

Exactly, he nodded, condescendingly.  Less than three quarters of Ireland’s health budget for a year.  The health budget of a very small country, even taking into account how many people are grossly overpaid.

And you know, he has a point.  It’s true.

But still. $19 billion?

What would you do if somebody paid you $19 billion for a company you’d set up out of nothing?

Would you …

a)  Go completely crazy, put all your friends on a 170-foot yacht, fill it with Latvian hookers, take it to international waters, buy fourteen pounds of marching powder,  and hire the Rolling Stones for a week?

b)  Go completely crazy, put all your friends on a 170-foot yacht, fill it with Latvian hookers, take it to international waters, buy fourteen pounds of marching powder,  and hire the Rolling Stones for a week?

c)  Go completely crazy, buy a 170-foot yacht, fill it with Latvian hookers, take it to international waters, buy fourteen pounds of marching powder,  and hire the Rolling Stones for a week?

Or

d)  put all your energy into growing the company?

It’s a tough choice, I’ll admit, but them’s the breaks.

Now, Jan Koum seems to be a very level-headed fellow.  He left Ukraine with his mother at the age of 16, to escape the anti-Semitism around Kiev, and to find a less corrupt society in the United States.  Good luck with that.  He was a clever fellow, teaching himself from books he bought in second-hand shops, and he found that nobody really cared if he had a college degree or not.  He did well, finding a like-minded ill-fitting geek in the shape of Brian Acton, both of them pretty-much unemployable outside the insane world of Silicon Valley and eventually they set up WhatsApp with the support of an equally-insane venture capitalist called Jim Goetz.

It took off.  It even made some money, but mostly it took over the world of texting and picture-sharing.  FaceBook spotted it, recognised that it had a bigger market share than they did and promptly bought it for $19 billion.  I like the fact that they posed for the publicity photo outside the same social security office where Koum and Acton both collected food stamps.

WhatsApp Founders and financial backer

All well and good, but that’s where we came in.  Let’s say the venture capitalist got a great deal and he owns a third of the company.  That leaves $13 billion for the two founders.  They have fifty employees.  Let’s say they decided to give them half the money, which they probably didn’t.  But let’s just say they were that generous.

That leaves $6.5 billion.  $3.25 billion each.

Let’s say half of that is funny money in the form of Facebook shares, so shit, let’s call it a billion each.  A flat billion in folding green currency of the sort you could use to purchase many hot-dogs.

If you had a billion dollars, what would be your first priority?

I can tell you this: my first priority would not be going back to work.  And it would not be promoting world peace.  I might even hire a top-class assassin, but only to join me in brandy and cigars while reminiscing about operations in the old days.

What would I mostly do with a billion dollars?

Simple.  I’d go fucking mad.

Who wouldn’t?

7 thoughts on “Facebook Buys WhatsApp for €19 Billion

  1. I’m disappointed in you Bock—with a cool billion or three I thought you would have a clever plan to bring an end to world poverty, oppression, disease and injustice. Why only a 170 ft yacht and why only Latvian hookers? If you had a billion dollars right now; I know the Hound of Satan would still treat you exactly the same. Would it really change you–would you continue to write about things you care about?–or could you still care?–isn’t that a little scary?

  2. That kind of sudden wealth you’d only wish on your worst enemy.
    If you had a worst enemy.

  3. I knew a couple who lived in a council house they had bought on the edge of a grim town in the North. They won £3 million Sterling in the British National Lottery back in the 90s. They built a new front porch on the house.

  4. I would get someone to teach me to play guitar properly,and buy a pub that sold the best Guiness in the world.None of that making the world a better place shite.

  5. @sheskin

    Best Guinness in the world? A bit like getting a new front porch on a shitty house, then.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.