WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton was rejected by Facebook when he applied for a job there in 2009. In 2014, the messaging service sold itself to the social network for $19 billion, making Acton, among others, wildly wealthy. Then he rejected Facebook in 2017 over its plans to monetize WhatsApp.
And on Wednesday, Acton—now the head of Signal, the nonprofit rival to WhatsApp—again called for people to join him and reject Facebook by deleting the app from their phones, BuzzFeed News reported. He’s publicly made that suggestion before.
In an appearance as a guest speaker to an undergraduate class at his alma mater, Stanford, Acton criticized Silicon Valley for making money by trading privacy for revenue, even though he ultimately profited himself from it.
“I had 50 employees, and I had to think about them and the money they would make from this sale,” Acton said, according to BuzzFeed. “I had to think about our investors and I had to think about my minority stake. I didn’t have the full clout to say no if I wanted to.”
Acton did walk away from Facebook before he received the final $850 million in stock grants he could have collected.
Both Acton and the other WhatsApp co-founder, Jan Koum, had hoped they could create another way to monetize their app. Originally, WhatsApp would charge users $1 a year that would support a model of privacy and security. They thought, with enough users, it would be profitable.
“It was not extraordinarily money-making, and if you have a billion users … you’re going to have $1 billion in revenue per year,” Acton said at Stanford. “That’s not what Google and Facebook want. They want multibillions of dollars.”
Koum left Facebook in 2018, reportedly due to Facebook’s plans to use personal data of WhatsApp members.