WhatsApp founder rejected by Facebook and Twitter, sold to Facebook for $19 billion

In February of 2014, Brian Acton and Jan Koum sold their mobile messaging application WhatsApp to Facebook for $19 billion.

The two worked together at Yahoo. Acton became the 44th employee in 1996. Koum was hired as an infrastructure engineer two years later. In late 2007, they both left Yahoo, decided to take a year off, traveled around South America together, and played lots of ultimate frisbee.

Both eventually applied to Facebook and were rejected. Acton also applied to Twitter and was turned away.

By January of 2009, Koum realized that Apple’s then seven-month-old App Store was about to create a whole new industry. He and Acton wanted in. A month later, WhatsApp (like “what’s up?”) was incorporated.

Now the messaging app, bought by Facebook two years ago for $19 billion in cash and stock, is the second largest self-contained communications platform in existence, with over a billion users, second only to its parent company.

Acton’s Twitter account, which has been inactive since January of 2012, when he tweeted “whatsapp,” until February of this year, provides an interesting look into his mindset.

Didn’t we all share this same thought?

Still don’t “get” Twitter. Isn’t it just the same as facebook / IM status update?

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) March 3, 2009

When food trucks build up our hopes then crush them.

@CalexicoCart need to update status when you run out of carne asada and puerco

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) April 13, 2009

Funny that the co-founder of WhatsApp had major platform anxiety.

Don’t know when to update via FB and when to tweet. Ugh. Too many social applications.

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) April 21, 2009

The whole world has now experienced Twitter overload.

I have Twitter overload. Too many people are tweeting too much.

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) April 23, 2009

Tony Hsieh tried a holocracy…that didn’t work.

Why are corporations autocratic and governments democratic? Why can’t corporations be democratic?

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) April 26, 2009

Even smart people occasionally say dumb things.

Ok. It’s decided. Lombardi’s is the best pizza in New York.

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) April 27, 2009

I concur.

Did not like the Wolverine movie. Reasonable plot but poor scripting and production values.

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) May 5, 2009

If it’s meant to be, it will be.

Visiting Twitter HQ

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) May 14, 2009

Things will get better, I promise.

Got denied by Twitter HQ. That’s ok. Would have been a long commute.

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) May 23, 2009

Smart not to burn bridges, you’ll be seeing them again soon.

Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next adventure.

— Brian Acton (@brianacton) August 3, 2009

Tim Cook, Encryption, and WhatsApp

Acton tweeted for the first time in four years on February 17 to say “Tim Cook is my hero,” with a link to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s customer letter about their dispute with the FBI.

Less than a month later, Acton tweeted again, this time linking to a post on the WhatsApp Blog titled “end-to-end-encryption.”

We haven’t heard from him since.

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