WhatsApp billionaire cofounder Jan Koum announced on Monday via his Facebook account he will be leaving the company, four years after Facebook acquired the messenger app he built with Brian Acton for $22 billion in cash and stock.
“It's been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp, and it's been an amazing journey with some of the best people. But it is time for me to move on,” Koum wrote. “I'm leaving at a time when people are using WhatsApp in more ways than I could have imagined…I'll still be cheering WhatsApp on – just from the outside. Thanks to everyone who has made this journey possible.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded with a comment of appreciation as well as an acknowledgment of WhatApp’s core identity of preserving user privacy and security. “I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”
Zuckerberg’s response comes amid a report in The Washington Post that Koum is leaving Facebook due to the social network’s attempts to access WhatsApp user data and weaken its signature end-to-end encryption. Representatives for WhatsApp could not be reached for comment.
This is not the first instance of reported tension between the WhatsApp cofounders and its parent company. During the Cambridge Analytica scandal in March, which revealed that the London-based data firm had harvested Facebook data from as many as 87 million users, Brian Acton tweeted in support of the #DeleteFacebook movement.
Koum's plans after Facebook remain unclear, though he said he would be taking some time off “to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee.”
The tech entrepreneur grew up in a small village outside of Kiev, Ukraine with no hot water. While his father stayed behind, Koum and his mother moved to Mountain View, Calif. in 1992 to escape an anti-Semitic environment. Both of Koum’s parents passed away before he turned 25.
Fourteen years later in 2014, Koum and Acton signed the agreement to sell their messaging platform for $22 billion in cash and stock at an old office building in Mountain View that had once been a welfare office where Koum stood in line to collect food stamps. He traveled an incredible journey from barely getting by to becoming a billionaire. Koum has served on Facebook's board since the social media giant acquired his company. Forbescurrently estimates Koum's net worth at $9.1 billion.