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Brian Acton (born 1972 or 1973) is an Internet entrepreneur and computer programmer from the United States. The Signal Foundation, which Acton co-founded with Moxie Marlinspike in 2018, is his executive chairman. He was formerly employed by Yahoo! and co-founded WhatsApp with Jan Koum, a mobile messaging service that was bought by Facebook in February 2014 for US$19 billion. In September 2017, Acton quit WhatsApp to form the Signal Foundation. Acton is the 836th richest person in the world, according to Forbes (2020), with a net worth of $2.5 billion. Acton was born in Michigan and eventually relocated to Central Florida, where he attended Lake Howell High School. Acton was awarded a full scholarship to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study engineering, but he dropped out after a year to attend Stanford. In 1994, he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Stanford University.
He began his career as a systems administrator for Rockwell International in 1992, before moving on to Apple Inc. and Adobe Systems as a product tester. He joined Yahoo Inc. as the 44th employee in 1996. Jan Koum was employed by Yahoo! as an infrastructure engineer in 1998, shortly after he met Acton while working as a security tester at Ernst & Young. They worked at Yahoo! for the following nine years. Acton made millions in the dotcom boom but lost millions in the 2000 dotcom bubble. Koum and Acton quit Yahoo! in September 2007 and took a year off to travel throughout South America and play ultimate frisbee. Both applied for jobs at Facebook but were unsuccessful. Koum and Brian Acton decided to sell WhatsApp to Facebook for US$19 billion in cash and equity in 2014. According to Forbes, Acton owns more than 20% of the firm, putting his net worth at $3.8 billion. Twitter and Facebook both turned him down for jobs in 2009, according to Acton’s personal Twitter feed. Acton led a $3.5 million investment round for Trak N Tell in 2016, along with two other investors. Acton quit WhatsApp in September 2017. Acton told Forbes that he resigned because of a disagreement with Facebook about WhatsApp’s commercialization, and that he willfully left $850 million in unvested options on the table by departing a few months before vesting was completed. He also claimed that Facebook management instructed him to deceive European authorities about the company’s plans to integrate Facebook and WhatsApp user data. Acton quit WhatsApp in September 2017 to start the Signal Foundation, which is devoted to enabling individuals to communicate privately using an encrypted messaging service. Journalists and human rights campaigners frequently utilise Signal. Acton stated in February 2018 that it will invest $50 million in Signal. Acton officially tweeted support for the #DeleteFacebook campaign on March 20, 2018, according to Forbes, in a “new degree of public reaction.” Acton was questioned by journalist Steven Levy in November 2019 about why he chose to make his sentiments so public. Acton stated that he believed it was past time since there was mounting pressure on Facebook. Acton is presently a member of the Signal Foundation’s board of directors.
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