WhatsApp Co-Founder Gave Up On $850M Just To Leave Facebook

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In short: WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton gave up on $850 million just to leave Facebook the moment he concluded the social media giant's strategy for the messaging app is irreparably at odds with his own ambitions and desires, the 46-year-old revealed in a recent interview with Forbes. He left the Menlo Park, California-based firm in late summer of 2017, a year before his final stock grants vested, maintaining he has no regrets about his decision. The months leading up to his departure saw him clash with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg over WhatsApp monetization and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is also understood to have been frustrated with his insistence on avoiding in-app advertising.

Background: Earlier this year, in the immediate aftermath of the initial reports on the Cambridge Analytica scandal and not long after Mr. Acton left the company, he tweed "it is time" to "delete Facebook," without elaborating on the matter. While the industry veteran had a clause in his contract that allowed him to receive all of his stock grants if Facebook was to start implementing monetization techniques he disagrees with, Mr. Zuckerberg and his legal team tried disputing it, with Mr. Acton choosing not to escalate the issue in favor of leaving the company as quickly as possible. "At the end of the day, I sold my company," he said, describing himself as a "sellout" and suggesting he already made enough from the WhatsApp sale. Mr. Acton is estimated to be worth some $3.6 billion as of today. Monetization has been a key point during sale negotiations in early 2014 that were rushed because Google was also showing interest in acquiring WhatsApp, the multi-billionaire revealed.

Impact: With both Mr. Acton and the other co-founder — Jan Koum — gone from Facebook, the Internet juggernaut is likely to start monetizing WhatsApp in a much more aggressive manner moving forward. Coupled with the fact that Instagram co-founders recently quit the firm following similar tensions, it remains to be seen how one of the world's most valuable companies ends up navigating this troublesome episode and address the leadership void it's currently experiencing.

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