Brian Acton

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Brian Acton
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Brian Acton (right)
Born (1972-02-17) February 17, 1972 (age 47)
EducationStanford University (BS)
Years active1992 - Present
OrganizationSignal Foundation
Known forCo-founded WhatsApp with Jan Koum in 2009
Co-founded Signal Foundation with Moxie Marlinspike in 2018
Net worthDecrease US$ 3.6 Billion [1]
TitleExecutive Chairman[2][3]
Spouse(s)Tegan Acton

Brian Acton (born February 17, 1972) is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. Acton is the Executive Chairman of the Signal Foundation, which he co-founded with Moxie Marlinspike in 2018.[2][3]

He was formerly employed at Yahoo!, and co-founded (with Jan Koum) WhatsApp,[4] a mobile messaging application which was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for US$19 billion. Acton left WhatsApp in September 2017 to start the Signal Foundation.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Acton, born in Michigan, grew up in Central Florida,[6] where he graduated from Lake Howell High School. Acton received a full scholarship to study engineering at the University of Pennsylvania but left after a year to study at Stanford.[7] He graduated from Stanford University in 1994 with a degree in computer science.[8]


In 1992, he became a systems administrator for Rockwell International, before becoming a product tester at Apple Inc. and Adobe Systems. In 1996, he became the 44th employee hired by Yahoo Inc.[9]


In 1998, Jan Koum was hired by Yahoo as an infrastructure engineer shortly after he met Acton while working at Ernst & Young as a security tester.[10] Over the next nine years, they worked at Yahoo. Acton invested in the dotcom boom and lost millions in the dot-com bubble of 2000. In September 2007 Koum and Acton left Yahoo and took a year off, traveling around South America and playing ultimate frisbee. Both applied, and failed, to work at Facebook. In January 2009, Koum bought an iPhone and realized that the then seven-month-old App Store was about to spawn a whole new industry of apps. He visited his friend Alex Fishman and talked about developing an app.[10] Koum almost immediately chose the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “what’s up”, and a week later on his birthday, Feb. 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California.[10]


In 2014, Koum and Acton agreed to sell WhatsApp to Facebook for approximately $19 billion USD in cash and stock.[8] Forbes estimates that Acton held over 20% stake in the company, making his net worth around $3.8 billion.[11] According to Acton's personal Twitter feed, he was turned down for employment by both Twitter and Facebook in 2009.[8] In September 2017, Acton left WhatsApp.[12] Acton told Forbes that he left over a dispute with Facebook regarding monetization of WhatsApp, and voluntarily left $850 million in unvested options on the table by leaving a few months before vesting was completed.[13][14] He also noted that he was coached by Facebook executives to mislead European regulators regarding Facebook's intention to merge Facebook and WhatsApp user data.[15]


Acton and his wife Tegan Acton started Sunlight Giving in 2014.[16][17] Sunlight Giving is a family foundation dedicated to supporting the basic services of low-income families with young children ages 0–5.[18]

Acton left WhatsApp in September 2017 to start a new foundation, the Signal Foundation.[19] On March 20, 2018, Forbes reported that Acton had publicly tweeted support for the #DeleteFacebook movement, in a "new level of public backlash".[20]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Tegan Acton.[16] Contrary to reports, he is not married or related to Marina Acton, a Ukrainian popstar and philanthropist.


  1. ^ Forbes: The World's Billionaires – Brian Acton March 2014
  2. ^ a b Marlinspike, Moxie; Acton, Brian (21 February 2018). "Signal Foundation". Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Statement of Information" (PDF). California Secretary of State. 28 August 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Brian Acton". Forbes.
  5. ^ CNBC (2017-09-13). "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton to leave company". CNBC. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  6. ^ Zuckerberg Bonded With WhatsApp CEO Over Coffee and Dinners
  7. ^ Burnett, Richard (February 25, 2015). "Billionaire-to-be Brian Acton got tech start at Lake Howell High". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Wood, Zoe (February 20, 2014). "Facebook turned down WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton for job in 2009". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  9. ^ "WhatsApp Co-Founder Puts $50M Into Signal To Supercharge Encrypted Messaging". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  10. ^ a b c Parmy Olson (February 19, 2014). "Exclusive: The Rags-To-Riches Tale Of How Jan Koum Built WhatsApp Into Facebook's New $19 Billion Baby". Forbes. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  11. ^ Mac, Ryan (February 19, 2014). "WhatsApp Founders Become Billionaires In $19 Billion Facebook Deal". Forbes. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  12. ^ "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton is leaving to start a non-profit". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  13. ^ Lomas, Natasha (September 27, 2018). "WhatsApp founder, Brian Acton, says Facebook used him to get its acquisition past EU regulators". Techcrunch. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  14. ^ Olson, Parmy. "Exclusive: WhatsApp Cofounder Brian Acton Gives The Inside Story On #DeleteFacebook And Why He Left $850 Million Behind". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  15. ^ Lomas, Natasha (September 27, 2018). "WhatsApp founder, Brian Acton, says Facebook used him to get its acquisition past EU regulators". Techcrunch. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  16. ^ a b Brian Acton. "our story". Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  17. ^ "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton invested $50 million into the Signal app — here's how he spends his $6.9 billion fortune". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  18. ^ "Brian and Tegan Acton". Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  19. ^ "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton to leave company". Reuters. September 12, 2017.
  20. ^ "WhatsApp Cofounder Promotes #deletefacebook Amid Cambridge Analytica Scandal", Kathleen Chaykowski, Forbes, March 21, 2018

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