WhatsApp, the standalone messaging app that Facebook bought for $19 billion back in early 2014, doesn't make any money.
That's about to change — apparently soon — as WhatsApp is hiring for a number of key monetization roles, including a product manager position to "lead product development on our monetization efforts."
WhatsApp, which has more than 200 employees, recently posted three job openings related to business products it doesn't currently offer. There's the product manager role mentioned above; a product marketing manager position, a role focused on selling and marketing that product to actual customers, including helping the "go-to-market plans"; and a business communications position, someone who can help explain WhatsApp's business to the press.
Under the "preferred qualifications" section of the PM and PMM postings, WhatsApp says it's also looking for people with "prior experience in local, search and payments." A source familiar with WhatsApp's strategy said the company is particularly focused on creating something for emerging markets, like Brazil or India, where the app is very popular. In fact, all three job postings mention a desire for experience in international or emerging markets.
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WhatsApp doesn't say much publicly, period, and it has said even less about its business plans, other than to say, repeatedly, that it doesn't like advertisments.
But earlier this year, WhatsApp hired its first COO, a business exec from parent company Facebook, and started testing a product that would let businesses actually communicate with customers via the messaging app. In April, reports surfaced that WhatsApp was working on a payments feature to launch in India.
Another source described WhatsApp's plan as similar to Apple's recently announced Business Chat, which lets customers communicate with businesses to "get answers to questions, resolve issues, and complete transactions." Facebook's other messaging app, Messenger, is trying to do something similar.
Here's how WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum has described it in the past:
"That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today — through text messages and phone calls — so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam."
It's unknown how close WhatsApp is to actually unveiling a business product like this, but usually you don't bring in the comms professional or the product marketing person until you have an idea that you'd like to start talking about.
A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment.
WhatsApp has 1.2 billion users worldwide and is incredibly popular in emerging markets outside of the United States. Many businesses in countries like India and Brazil already use WhatsApp to send messages to customers. WhatsApp just doesn't offer custom tools or dashboards to help with that.
Facebook has said that growth for its core moneymaker, News Feed, is going to slow down, and the company is looking for other business options inside many of its other apps. Messenger, the company's other standalone messaging app, is also trying to connect businesses with their customers, though it is more popular in the U.S.
—By Kurt Wagner, Re/code.net.
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