Points Hero of the Day: WhatsApp Co-Founder Jan Koum – Makes Facebook Close $16 Billion Deal To Preserve Award Ticket

by on February 23, 2014 · 19 comments

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Every so often we hear stories of people who take extraordinary measures to maximize their hard-earned points and miles, so we’re starting a new series honoring those that go above and beyond the call of duty (and sometimes reason) to take that award flight or secure that primo hotel suite. And as a hat tip to their savvy and I’ll donate 10,000 American Airlines in their name to their Kids in Need program – my favorite miles charity that helps numerous charities helping to improve the lives of children around the world.

WhatsApp Co-Founder Jan Koum

WhatsApp Co-Founder Jan Koum

For our inaugural points hero of the day, we’d like to WhatsApp cofounder (and known FlyerTalker) Jan Koum, who reportedly put a ticking clock on his much-touted $16-billion deal with Facebook the other day by telling them that it had to close before an award flight he was scheduled to board a flight to Barcelona for Mobile Congress Week that he had booked using miles.

Explained Koum on FlyerTalk:

Koum's original FT post on lighting a fire under Facebook because of an award flight.

Koum’s original FT post on lighting a fire under Facebook because of an award flight.

i prefer to fly using miles when i can to save company money. as you know, award ticket inventory is limited and last minute changes are nearly impossible… and this is where it gets cute:

we announced the deal with Facebook on wednesday after the market closed. during the process, we realized there was a chance we might not be able to get the deal wrapped up and signed on wednesday and it could delay.

when the risk of the delay became real, i said: “if we don’t get it done on wednesday, it probably wont get done. i have tickets on thursday to fly out to Barcelona which i bought with miles and they are not easily refundable or even possible to change. this has to be done by wednesday or else!!!”

…and so one of the biggest deals in tech history had to be scheduled around my M&M award ticket “. (Miles & More is the frequent flyer program of Lufthansa and 12 other European airlines). 

Now, the rest of us might say to ourselves – well, it’s $16 billion so maybe I’ll just take my chances and wait on the deal to close and book another (paid) flight if I have to, but not Koum. He had redeemed his miles, and darn it if he wasn’t getting on that plane, Facebook money or no!

So hat tip to you, Jan Koum, for sticking with your award and avoiding award ticketing change fees, or gasp, throwing away a perfectly good award ticket! WhatsApp us from Barcelona and let us know how the World Mobile Congress is going – chances are you’re getting a lot of handshakes and pats on the back right now. Congratulations- especially from those of us in the points community- you made us proud!

Hat tip Gizmodo/ Scott Kidder

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • SeaBee3

    It was a $19B, not $16B, deal

  • RJP

    That works out to about $160,000 a point – pretty steep. Ironically, Zuckerburg bought the company using VanillaReloads he bought at Walgreens, so he’s just picked up 96,000,000,000 HHonors points. :-)

  • Kristy McCoy

    Super witty response!

  • thepointsguy

    Zuckerberg bought WhatsApp using VANILLA RELOADS- that made me LOL

  • Guest

    Right, the guy could buy a fleet of aircraft now. WFT.

  • LarryInNYC

    $16B clear, possible additional $3B to vest over four years.

  • shay peleg

    First world problems for sure

  • bob

    Heck, he could of bought out the airline

  • mike

    Are you kidding me? 19 Billion for such a stupid thing?! Why not just change the incoming voicemail to your phone? Or just check your voicemail when you land? This is insane and I hope that the Facebook company looses money from this deal because whoever paid out this much is a moron.

  • Ben Price

    Am I the only one who never “got” WhatsApp? As an iPhone user, what’s to separate iMessage from WhatsApp?? Needing to be under WiFi completely negated any benefit, to me, of WhatsApp…

  • jtgray

    It’s a cute story and all, but we all know that if the deal was ACTUALLY on the line, he wouldn’t be getting on that plane.

  • Angel

    Not everyone has an iPhone (which you need for iMessage). The idea behind it was to allow people to message each other from anywhere in the world using any phone that has Internet access.

  • jtgray

    Benefits over iMessage – you can message people not on iOS. And you don’t need Wifi, just data – big benefit for anyone who has to pay per text message or wants to avoid paying a large amount for unlimited messages (vs a small amount for say, 200 messages), but already pays for daya. Plus – they have 450 mil users, 70% of their users are active, per user rate paid is less than half of Linked in and comparable to Instagram deal (and 30% of current instagram user valuation). And they have a big worldwide presense, especially in areas where facebook is weak like india

  • jtgray

    I’m sure the cashier looked at him like he was some kind of criminal and called his/her manager over to make sure he was really allowed to use credit cards for the transaction, and the manager gave him a funny look and said ok but be sure to check his ID and signature.

  • LuvVacations

    So you are congratulating and glorifying a self-centered CEO who is only focused on satisfying his short term desires and displays an incredible lack of vision and patience? Gosh, what a wonderful company leader who sets a great example for stockholders and employees by teaching them to focus on their own selfish interests by avoiding a bankruptcy-inducing less than $500 change fee over a $16 billion transaction ahead of what’s best for the community. Thank you The Points Guy for reinforcing the “What’s in it for Me?” individualism and self-centered culture these days by anointing an incredibly selfish individual. Don’t include me in your broad-brushed stroke of “points community”- being “proud” of Jan Koum.

  • domydeal
  • John K

    WhatsAPP is actually SUPER popular for communicating on INTERNATIONAL level. No, this is not insane and it’s not a stupid thing.

  • thomas

    Minor (but really major) mergers and acquisitions point: to “close” a deal means that Facebook has legally acquired WhatsApp (and paid them consideration for the deal). At present, the deal has only signed, but not closed, no money or ownership has been transferred. So your title is incorrect, it should read “Makes Facebook SIGN . . “

  • lindseywagners

    Koum. Ego, ego, ego. This seems like one big ego ride.

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