Understanding How Failing a Job Interview May Be a Source of Innovation: The Case of WhatsApp Founders

  • Alain Ndedi
  • Kelly Mua Kingsley
Part of the Palgrave Studies of Sustainable Business in Africa book series (PSSBA)


In most cases, failure is perceived as a disappointment and drags down the person experiencing this misfortune. However, disappointment can also be a blessing in disguise. The purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate how failure can lead to innovation and success. To carry out the research, a thorough literature review is conducted with the aim of bringing out the linkages between failure, success and innovation. Therefore, secondary data is introduced, with the focus on Peter Drucker’s research. When people make mistakes, generally they stared in the face, and often they find it so upsetting that they miss out on the primary benefit of failing: the chance to get over human egos and come back with a stronger, smarter approach. However, this chapter shows that success and innovation come through rapidly fixing mistakes rather than getting things right the first time. This chapter has discussed the importance of not giving up after a disappointment or a failure of any nature. In most cases, people lose direction and even hope after they have experienced failure. Fortunately, innovation may come to their rescue. In fact, innovation requires focus and abnegation. In general, some people are more talented innovators than others, but their talents lie in well-defined areas and can be lost when facing difficulties. Innovation requires therefore knowledge, ingenuity and, above all else, focuses from the person wishing to benefit from it. With innovation, as in any other human endeavour, there is talent, there is ingenuity and there is knowledge. But when all is said and done, what innovation requires is hard, focused, purposeful and genuine work. Because innovation is conceptual and perceptual, would-be innovators that must also go out and look to get new ideas, ask questions and listen responses that may assist them to get ‘out of the box’ in which they find themselves. Successful innovators use both the right and left sides of their brains; meaning that they are always looking to move from their comfort zone to get new insights. They work out analytically what the innovation has to be to satisfy an opportunity; an opportunity arisen from any inopportune event. Then they go out and look at potential users to study their expectations, their values, their failures, their successes and their needs. As it has been explained in this chapter, what remains remarkable about the WhatsApp’s rise to success is the story of its founders; Jan Koum and Brian Acton who were no strangers to failure, and their incredible journey speaks volumes about the value of tenacity and vision in human life. Today, as noted by Nguyen (2014), Jan Koum and Brian’s Acton company is the most valuable messaging platform on the planet, but they have experienced their fair share of rejection by top tech companies, including the one that eventually bought their service, Facebook.


  1. Amabile, T. (1998). How to kill creativity. Harvard Business Review, 76(September–October), 77–87.Google Scholar
  2. De Bono, E. (1990). Lateral Thinking for Management: A Handbook. Penguin UK (July 1990).Google Scholar
  3. Drucker, P. F. (1984, January/February). Our entrepreneurial economy. Harvard Business Review, pp. 59–64.Google Scholar
  4. Drucker, P. F. (1985). Innovative and entrepreneurship practice and principles. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers..Google Scholar
  5. Drucker, P. F. (1994). Innovation and entrepreneurship. Oxford: British Library Cataloguing.Google Scholar
  6. Forbes. (2014). Looking inside the Facebook–WhatsApp megadeal: The courtship, the secret meetings, The $19 billion poker game. Retrieved from, (January 10th, 2015).
  7. Forbes, (2015). Inside The Facebook-WhatsApp Megadeal: The Courtship, The Secret Meetings, The $19 Billion Poker Game. Available at Accessed on the 22nd January 2016.
  8. Kuratko, D. F., & Hodgetts, R. M. (2004). Entrepreneurship: Theory, process & practice. Mason: South-Western Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Miller, C. W. (1999), Flash of brilliance. Reading, Massachusetts, Perseus Books.Google Scholar
  10. Morris, M. H., and Kuratko, D. F. (2002). Corporate entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial development within organizations, Orlando, FL: Harcourt College Publishers.Google Scholar
  11. Ndedi, A. A. (2012), Principles on Corporate Entrepreneurship and Strategy. LAPGoogle Scholar
  12. Nguyen, N. (2014). The founders of WhatsApp prove perseverance wins. Available at: (Accessed on the 25th December 2015)
  13. Olson, P. (2015). The rags-to-riches tale of how Jan Koum built WhatsApp into Facebook’s new $19 billion baby. Retrieved from Scholar
  14. Rowan, D. (2014). WhatsApp: The inside story. Retrieved from
  15. Satariano, A. (2014). WhatsApp’s founder goes from food stamps to billionaire. Retrieved from (Accessed 10 Jan 2016).
  16. Webster, F. A. (1976). A model for new venture initiation: A discourse on rapacity and the independent entrepreneur. The Academy of Management Review, 1(1), 26–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 International License (, which permits any noncommercial use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alain Ndedi
    • 1
  • Kelly Mua Kingsley
    • 2
  1. 1.Saint Monica UniversityComerciCameroon
  2. 2.Harvard Kennedy School of GovernmentCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations