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Brian Acton

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A Michigan native, Brian Acton grew up in St. Augustine, Florida. His stepfather was a professional golfer; his mother built an air-freight business. He transferred to Stanford University from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, graduating three years later with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. After stints at Rockwell, Adobe and Apple, Acton became employee number 44 at Yahoo in 1996, where he was hired as a software engineer. He met his future business partner Jan Koum at the Internet company one year later.

In Oct. 2007, Koum and Acton left Yahoo and took a year off. Koum started mobile-messaging service WhatsApp on Feb. 24, 2009, his birthday. Six months later, Acton got five former Yahoo colleagues to invest $250,000 in seed funding and was granted co-founder status and a stake in the company. Sequoia Capital invested about $58 million in the start-up in stages.

Facebook agreed to purchase WhatsApp for as much as $19 billion in cash and stock, the biggest Internet acquisition in more than a decade, in February 2014. The accord includes $12 billion in stock, $4 billion in case and $3 billion in restricted shares. The company has more than 500 million users who send 50 billion messages every day.

Companies and Investments

No investments or board positions.

Lessons Learned

Be persistent — My partner and I won't stop working until everyone has an effective way of communicating, no matter where that takes us. We've hit roadblocks, but at the end of the day, you can't let that get you down.

Be respectful — When those roadblocks hit you, don't be a diva. Be kind, be respectful. When Facebook turned down Whatsapp in 2009, I tweeted about how this wasn't the end of the road for us. And it wasn't — A few years later, we sold it to Facebook for $19 million.

Inspiring Quotes

We won’t stop until every single person on the planet has an affordable and reliable way to communicate with their friends and loved ones.

Jan Koum

I want to do one thing, and do it well.

Jan Koum

Brian Acton's Quotes

My mom started an air-freight company; my grandmother built a golf course. I have a certain degree of entrepreneurial risk-taking in my family history. Maybe that eventually rubbed off on me a little bit.

Brian Acton

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

Brian Acton

I feel like the luckiest person in the world every day of my life.

Brian Acton

Influential Books


Mom, Grandparents