Brian Acton

Brian Acton (born 1972 or 1973) is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. Acton is the executive chairman of the Signal Foundation, which he co-founded with Moxie Marlinspike in 2018.[2][3]

Brian Acton
Born1972/1973 (age 48–49)[1]
Michigan, U.S.
EducationBachelor of Science
Alma mater
Years active1992 – present
OrganizationSignal Foundation
Known for
TitleExecutive Chairman[2][3]
Spouse(s)Tegan Acton

He was formerly employed at Yahoo!, and co-founded WhatsApp,[1] a mobile messaging application which was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for US$19 billion, with Jan Koum. Acton left WhatsApp in September 2017 to start the Signal Foundation.[4] According to Forbes (2020), Acton is the 836th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $2.5 billion.[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Acton grew up in Michigan,[5] later moving to Central Florida where he graduated from Lake Howell High School.[6] Acton received a full scholarship to study engineering at the University of Pennsylvania but left after a year to study at Stanford.[6] He graduated from Stanford University in 1994 with a degree in computer science.[7]


In 1992, he became a systems administrator for Rockwell International, before becoming a product tester at Apple Inc. and Adobe Systems. In 1996, he became the 44th employee hired by Yahoo Inc.[8]


In 1998, Jan Koum was hired by Yahoo! as an infrastructure engineer shortly after he met Acton while working at Ernst & Young as a security tester.[9] Over the next nine years, they worked at Yahoo!. Acton invested in the dotcom boom and lost millions in the dot-com bubble of 2000. In September 2007 Koum and Acton left Yahoo! and took a year off, traveling around South America and playing ultimate frisbee. Both applied, and failed, to work at Facebook. In January 2009, Koum bought an iPhone and realized that the then seven-month-old App Store was about to spawn a whole new industry of apps. He visited his friend Alex Fishman and talked about developing an app.[9] Koum almost immediately chose the name WhatsApp because it sounded like "what's up", and a week later on his birthday, Feb. 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California.[9]


In 2014, Koum and Brian Acton agreed to sell WhatsApp to Facebook for approximately US$19 billion in cash and stock.[7] Forbes estimated that Acton held over 20% stake in the company, making his net worth around $3.8 billion.[10] According to Acton's personal Twitter feed, he was turned down for employment by both Twitter and Facebook in 2009.[7]

In 2016, Acton led a funding round for Trak N Tell and raised $3.5 million along with two other investors.[11][12]

In September 2017, Acton left WhatsApp.[13] Acton told Forbes that he left over a dispute with Facebook regarding monetization of WhatsApp, and voluntarily left $850 million in unvested options on the table by leaving a few months before vesting was completed.[14][15] He also said that he was coached by Facebook executives to mislead European regulators regarding Facebook's intention to merge Facebook and WhatsApp user data.[16][17]


Acton left WhatsApp in September 2017 to start a new foundation, the Signal Foundation, which is dedicated to helping people have access to private communication through an encrypted messaging app.[18][19] Signal is broadly used by journalists and human rights activists.

In February 2018, it was announced that Acton was investing $50 million into Signal.[8] On March 20, 2018, Forbes reported that Acton had publicly tweeted support for the #DeleteFacebook movement, in a "new level of public backlash".[20] In November 2019, the journalist Steven Levy asked Acton why he decided to make his feelings so public. Acton said he felt that it was time because there was pressure unfolding against Facebook.[21]

Acton is currently a board member of the Signal Foundation.[22]


Since 2014, Brian Acton and his wife Tegan Acton started to build a philanthropic network through the foundation Wildcard Giving, with three sister foundations: Sunlight Giving, Acton Family Giving and Solidarity Giving.[23]

The couple started Sunlight Giving in 2014,[24][25] a family foundation dedicated to supporting the basic services of low-income families with young children ages 0–5.[26] It also provides support for safe spaces and organizations that ensure food security, housing stability, and healthcare access. The foundation supports low-income families with children age five and below living in the San Francisco Bay Area.[27] It's a sister organization belonging to the Wildcard Giving family.[28] Sunlight Giving has $470 million in assets. It granted $6.4 million in 2015, $19.2 million in 2016, and $23.6 million in 2017.[27] This private foundation helped to fund Magnify Community, a non-profit organization with the goal of redirecting philanthropists' givings to nonprofits.[29]

Also in 2014, Acton helped establish Acton Family Giving and Solidarity Giving.[30]

In 2019, Brian Acton and his wife were considered, between them, the biggest givers of the year by Forbes after giving more than $1 billion to charitable causes.[31]

Personal lifeEdit

He is married to Tegan Acton.[24]


  1. ^ a b c "Brian Acton". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  2. ^ a b Marlinspike, Moxie; Acton, Brian (21 February 2018). "Signal Foundation". Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Statement of Information" (PDF). California Secretary of State. 28 August 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  4. ^ CNBC (2017-09-13). "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton to leave company". CNBC. Retrieved 2017-10-10.
  5. ^ Zuckerberg Bonded With WhatsApp CEO Over Coffee and Dinners
  6. ^ a b Burnett, Richard (February 25, 2015). "Billionaire-to-be Brian Acton got tech start at Lake Howell High". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Wood, Zoe (February 20, 2014). "Facebook turned down WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton for job in 2009". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  8. ^ a b "WhatsApp Co-Founder Puts $50M Into Signal To Supercharge Encrypted Messaging". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  9. ^ a b c Parmy Olson (February 19, 2014). "Exclusive: The Rags-To-Riches Tale Of How Jan Koum Built WhatsApp Into Facebook's New $19 Billion Baby". Forbes. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  10. ^ Mac, Ryan (February 19, 2014). "WhatsApp Founders Become Billionaires In $19 Billion Facebook Deal". Forbes. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  11. ^ Gooptu, Biswarup (2016-07-11). "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton invests in Trak N Tell". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  12. ^ Hoffower, Hillary. "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton invested $50 million into the Signal app — here's how he spends his $6.9 billion fortune". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  13. ^ "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton is leaving to start a non-profit". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  14. ^ Lomas, Natasha (September 27, 2018). "WhatsApp founder, Brian Acton, says Facebook used him to get its acquisition past EU regulators". Techcrunch. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  15. ^ Olson, Parmy. "Exclusive: WhatsApp Cofounder Brian Acton Gives The Inside Story On #DeleteFacebook And Why He Left $850 Million Behind". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  16. ^ Lomas, Natasha (September 27, 2018). "WhatsApp founder, Brian Acton, says Facebook used him to get its acquisition past EU regulators". Techcrunch. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  17. ^ Lomas, Natasha (September 27, 2018). "WhatsApp GB founder, Brian Acton, says Facebook used him to get its acquisition past EU regulators". SEEDAPK. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  18. ^ "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton to leave company". Reuters. September 12, 2017.
  19. ^ "WhatsApp's Brian Acton to talk Signal Foundation and leaving Facebook at Disrupt SF". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  20. ^ "WhatsApp Cofounder Promotes #deletefacebook Amid Cambridge Analytica Scandal", Kathleen Chaykowski, Forbes, March 21, 2018
  21. ^ Schiffer, Zoe (2019-11-08). "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton still thinks you should delete Facebook". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  22. ^ "Signal Foundation". Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  23. ^ "Home | Wildcard Giving". Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  24. ^ a b Brian Acton. "our story". Archived from the original on June 20, 2018. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  25. ^ "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton invested $50 million into the Signal app — here's how he spends his $6.9 billion fortune". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-10-05.
  26. ^ "Brian and Tegan Acton". Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  27. ^ a b Hoffower, Hillary (12 March 2018). "WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton invested $50 million into the Signal app - here's how he spends his $6.9 billion fortune". Business Insider.
  28. ^ "Sunlight Giving Home | Sunlight Giving". Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  29. ^ King, Danny (November 13, 2019). "Magnify Community Pledge calls on Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires to invest more of their philanthropic dollars back into the local community". Bizjournals. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  30. ^ Stangel, Luke (13 September 2017). "Billionaire WhatsApp cofounder is leaving Facebook to start a nonprofit". Silicon Valley Business Journal. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  31. ^ Çam, Deniz. "These Are The Biggest Givers On The Forbes 400". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-06-28.

External linksEdit