WhatsApp Founder Speaks

Parmy Olson, in an interview for Forbes, quoting Brian Acton, one of the founders of WhatsApp:

“They [Facebook] are businesspeople, they are good businesspeople. They just represent a set of business practices, principles and ethics, and policies that I don’t necessarily agree with.”

What strikes me about the quote above is that, with the exception of people – practices, principles, ethics and policies are the building blocks of a company. At the time the deal was announced, it was clear that Facebook would (eventually) pressure the WhatsApp founders on monetisation and privacy topics. It would have been incredibly naive of Acton (and founder Jan Koum) to think otherwise.

The article does not get into the reasons why Koum and Acton accepted the offer. If you discount the practices, principles, ethics and policies which drove them out. What are you left with apart from money and growth avenues?

The article says only that Zuckerberg made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

And who amongst us would refuse $22 billion?

I am sure everyone working at WhatsApp at the time benefited beyond any reasonable expectation.

While it is interesting to read Acton’s side of the story, he does not paint the full picture. I find it hard to sympathise with him. If his ethics and motivations were so strong, surely he and Koum could have remained true to their principles while building a profitable business themselves?

Failing that, we already know Google was interested in an acquisition. Facebook was not the only deal in town. Granted, it is doubtful a Google deal would have turned out any differently. But if Google and Facebook were interested, it is likely there were other acquirers (no doubt with less billions). Maybe WhatsApp could have found a buyer more suited to both their profit and ethical motives?

It is all speculation though.

In the end, this is a question that many successful founders will need to answer for themselves: sell or build?

Whichever you do, own it.

Because that #deletefacebook tweet was weak.