For this group of old friends, assembled for an impromptu reunion, the venue would feel familiar: an online chat room running on a secure private server. Each were former members of the elite hacking group “w00w00” and they had reconvened that afternoon to celebrate and share in the success of one of their own. In some ways it was just like old times.
But rather than success being the discovery of a new software exploit or penetration of a computer network, this was something more extraordinary. One of the group’s former members had just sold their company for $19 billion dollars.
His name is Jan Koum (known to the group simply as “yan”) and his startup is WhatsApp, the messaging app acquired by Facebook. “Is there a minimum net worth to be in here now?” quipped one of the chat room’s participants.
However, what makes this story more remarkable is that Koum isn’t the first former w00w00 member to achieve entrepreneurial success or the fame that often comes with it. Nor is he necessarily the first from the group to have become a billionaire.
Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning (“napster”) is known to have been a member of w00w00, along with a number of other early employees of the pioneering music file-sharing service. Meanwhile, although not universally recognised by the group, Sean Parker (“dob”), Napster’s other co-founder and the ex-president of Facebook, is said to have been present at the beginning of w00w00’s formation.