The creators of WhatsApp must be grinning like Cheshire cats today, while headlines buzz with talk of what's possibly the most shockingly large acquisition in tech history. Five years on from the release of the instant messaging smartphone app, Facebook has just bought out WhatsApp for a cool sum of $19 billion – that's $4 billion in cash with the remainder in shares and stocks. Brian Acton and Jan Kuom - the co-founders of WhatsApp - along with venture capitalist Jim Goetz signed the paperwork today. In signing away their work of the last five years, they've each pocketed a nice little retirement fund of a few billion. No biggie. Whatever the future of the little green app, it can certainly be said that these startup geniuses got out at the top of their game.
WhatsApp has thrived, despite global competition from the likes of Viber, WeChat and KaKaoTalk. As of November 2013, the app had 190 million active monthly users worldwide. This means that the price Facebook paid for the app equates to $100 per user! Yes, we are that valuable. The chat app became so popular that last year, Katy Perry released a video of her using WhatsApp to talk to her friends (all while going to the toilet and playing with her cat, mind you).
$19 billion is a lot of money. One can't help but wonder; what could Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook colleagues have bought for the same amount? Well, a lot to be frankly honest. Gap, TripAdvisor, American Airlines, and even Tiffany’s would all have been a cheaper purchase at their market value... Then again, it’s difficult to imagine Mark Zuckerberg in a diamond tiara – though he could have developed an actual breakfast option at the store, making Breakfast at Tiffany’s a real possibility. Hmm.
Aside from these lovely companies, WhatsApp's worth is now - stunningly - actually larger than the GDP of 124 countries worldwide. Here, we look at just five countries that you might be surprised to learn are, today, worth less than an app according to nominal GDP.
5 5 Nepal GDP (nominal): $19 billion
Yes, for approximately the same price paid for WhatsApp, Facebook could have matched Nepal's Gross Domestic Product. Not only would they own a culturally delightful country in South Asia, they would also own the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest. How cool would that be? You could just try and try to conquer that mountain – because you would own it. Aside from Everest, Nepal actually contains seven more of the ten highest peaks in the world.
It comes as little surprise; therefore, that tourism is the largest contributor to the Nepalese economy. Ambitious hikers and mountaineers flock to the little country in an effort to add their names to the list of Everest conquerors and look out over the world from that beautiful viewpoint. Foreign visitors stay, on average, in Nepal for about 12 days, according to 2008 statistics, which adds a delightful sum of money to their economy from tours, food and accommodation.
Hydroelectricity is also a pretty big deal in Nepal. The landscape of Nepal is treacherous and mountainous, largely untouched by human hands, making it ideal for harvesting hydro power. It is pretty obvious when you think of it – steep mountains mean steep waterfalls and rivers which means faster water which means more hydroelectricity!
4 4 Jamaica GDP (nominal): $14.8 billion
A relaxing stay on your own island of Jamaica with your leftover money of $4.2 billion might be a nicer way to spend your time than developing WhatsApp, but who are we to judge. Yes, the island that gave us Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and Sean Kingston is another that has a GDP lower than the price of WhatsApp.
Jamaica is a Caribbean island renowned for its beautiful culture of music, beaches and relaxation. The island has a mix of private and state sectors which comprise its economy but tourism is one of its biggest industries, bringing in about 50% of Jamaica’s total foreign exchange earnings. Being conveniently placed in a beautiful, clear ocean with year-round sun no doubt helps this cause. From January to August 2103 Jamaica had an amazing 2.09 million visitors! This is almost equal to the total population of the island.
3 3 Iceland GDP (nominal): $13.7 billion
Had they decided to go into the country buying business instead of the app buying one, Facebook could have matched Iceland's nominal GDP with $5.3 billion change. Much like Nepal, Iceland comes equipped with some beautiful natural resources that would have made every penny of that $13.7 billion worth it. Iceland is a delightful country. Its capital, Reykjavik, is the most northerly capital city in the world!
The Icelandic economic prosperity is not bad, for a small country. They make the most of their own resources and, like Nepal, are quite energy oriented. About 85% of Iceland’s energy comes from renewable sources that they produce locally!
Though the island is quite isolated when you look at a map of the world, Iceland is a tourism hotspot. It is the only place in the world where you can scuba dive between two tectonic plates; which, for those of you who are not geographically inclined, means you are in fact diving between two massive sections of the earth’s surface. Iceland receives about 1.1 million visitors annually which is actually three times its population. Incidentally, there are also spectacular views of the Northern Lights from Iceland!
2 2 The Bahamas GDP (nominal): $8.2 billion
The Bahamas comprises over 700 individual islands. Much like Jamaica, the Bahamas is a Caribbean state and part of the Commonwealth, under Queen Elizabeth II’s rule. The Bahamas’ economy is primarily made up of tourism and offshore banking, a dream for a corporation the size of Facebook!
Tourism alone provides about 60% of the total GDP of $8.2 billion in this country and provides employment for about half of the total population – it’s a pretty big deal. The majority of visitors to this gorgeous country come from Northern America. The beaches, the ocean and the possibility to explore any of the 700 islands draw the tourists here.
Financial services are the secondary Bahaman industry which – at 17% - lags behind tourism but is still vital to sustaining growth. Since 1990, the Bahamas has been renowned for being a banking haven for offshore corporations. This has to the country becoming an established financial region worldwide. But it's still worth less, in terms of nominal GDP, than Whatsapp...
1 1 San Marino GDP (nominal): $1.8 billion
Topping our list is the enclosed microstate of San Marino. At a GDP of $1.8 billion, Facebook could have matched San Marino's worth over ten times, with what they paid for WhatsApp - though that would have been silly. Still, they could have bought the country and had $17.2 billion pocket change. With an area of just 61.2 kilometres, San Marino is the world’s smallest republic, the third smallest country in Europe and the 22nd smallest in the world.
It's located near the east coast of Italy and has heavy influences from Italian culture. Though an independent republic, San Marino is somewhat overwhelmed by Italy (after all – it is a bit of a needle in a haystack purely by size). The country is obliged to use the Italian country and forbidden to cultivate tobacco or have a casino!
Economically, San Marino is extremely prosperous, despite its size. Tourism makes up just 2.2% of the country’s GDP – despite them getting over 2 million visitors in 2009 (62.5 times their population). Banking, apparel, electronics and ceramics are the biggest Sammarinese exports and make up quite a bit of the country’s GDP. Due to its small scale, San Marino is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. Fun fact: San Marino is a haven for stamp collectors! Stamps play a vital role in the Sammarinese economy, since the 1800s.
Editorial note: Therichest.com is not, of course, implying that countries can be bought for the equivalent of their GDP.