Brian Acton, who cofounded WhatsApp and sold it to Facebook in 2014, has given a wide-ranging interview to Forbes finally explaining why he left Facebook. In short, Facebook execs were wanting to do two things with the app that Acton wasn’t comfortable with. First, they wanted to show targeted ads in WhatsApp’s new Status feature, allowing the company to monetize the platform. Second, they wanted to sell businesses tools that would allow them to chat with WhatsApp users–and then sell those businesses analytics tools that would give them information about those chats and users.
All this was too much for Acton, and he decided to walk away from the company earlier this year. And not only did he walk away, but he left $850 million worth of stock on the table because he couldn’t agree to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would silence him from talking about the reasons for his departure, says Forbes:
It was perhaps the most expensive moral stand in history. Acton took a screenshot of the stock price on his way out the door–the decision cost him $850 million.
He’s following a similar moral code now. He clearly doesn’t relish the spotlight this story will bring and is quick to underscore that Facebook “isn’t the bad guy.” (“I think of them as just very good businesspeople.”) But he paid dearly for the right to speak his mind. “As part of a proposed settlement at the end, [Facebook management] tried to put a nondisclosure agreement in place,” Acton says. “That was part of the reason that I got sort of cold feet in terms of trying to settle with these guys.”
Acton also revealed that he regrets selling WhatsApp to Facebook, because he now realizes it was a betrayal of the trust users put in the app:
“At the end of the day, I sold my company. I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. I live with that every day.”
The full interview with Acton is well worth a read and comes on the heels of Instagram’s cofounders leaving Facebook as well.