WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton is leaving the company to start his own foundation.
Acton, who started at Facebook when WhatsApp was acquired for $19 billion in 2014, is the lesser-known of WhatsApp’s two co-founders. (CEO Jan Koum is the other, and he’s not leaving the company.) Ironically, Acton interviewed at Facebook back in 2009 after leaving a job at Yahoo, but he was not hired.
Acton led engineering internally for WhatsApp, and a source close to the company says he was a big advocate for WhatsApp’s push into encryption. His role won’t be filled by any one employee, according to a company spokesperson.
Acton announced the departure to colleagues at a WhatsApp all-hands meeting at Facebook headquarters on Tuesday, and posted the news to his Facebook page later that afternoon.
“I am very fortunate at my age to have the flexibility to take new risks and focus on what I’m passionate about,” Acton, 45, wrote in a blog post. “I’ve decided to start a foundation focused at the intersection of nonprofit, technology and communications. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while, and now it’s time to just focus and execute. I’ll have more to share in the coming months.”
It’s not entirely clear what Acton will focus on with his foundation, but he certainly has money to throw around. Forbes estimates Acton’s net worth at $6.5 billion.
His departure comes as WhatsApp, which has 1.2 billion users, is preparing to make some money. The company is hiring for a number of key business positions, and sources say that WhatsApp is building multiple enterprise products that will help businesses message and interact with customers using the app. Right now, WhatsApp does not generate any revenue.