WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton's Facebook job application rejected in 2009

It has not always been smooth-sailing for software gurus Brian Acton (left) and Jan Koum (right).

Facebook’s astounding $19bn acquisition of WhatsApp is making headlines all around the world due to the sheer scale of the multi-billion dollar deal.

It is Facebook’s biggest transaction since the company was founded in 2004, and probably the largest ever price offered for a start-up surpassing Microsoft’s $8.5bn acquisition of Skype in 2011

So the deal comes off as somewhat ironic considering co-founder Brian Acton was rejected by Facebook after he applied for a job there in August 2009. Bloomberg reports that Acton applied for a job at the social networking company after exiting Yahoo!. After he was unsuccessful, he tweeted a status expressing his optimistic outlook despite the negative outcome.

He soon partnered with fellow ex-Yahoo employee Jan Koum to begin a mobile application which would change their lives. Acton is now having the last laugh, after securing a deal with the very same company which rejected him over five years ago. With at least a 20% stake in the company, he will likely gain a whopping $3bn out of the deal.

His co-founding partner Jan Koum has also faced many challenges during his life. The 38-year old’s modern lifestyle is a stark comparison to his impoverished childhood where his family escaped Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. As a teenager, his family relied on food stamps to survive. After much hard work and dedication, the pair now have enough money to retire early, and quite comfortably for that matter.

Source: Bloomberg | Images via Forbes

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the only thing that i can think when reading this story is: Facebook, fire your HR, all of it; that just cost you 19 billion.

now serious: maybe not being accepted in Facebook was the catalyst that those two chaps need it to build a new company and follow their dreams.

not to be the downer, but is their company really worth that much money?... I've seen bigger and more valuable application companies get sold off for way less

neufuse said,
not to be the downer, but is their company really worth that much money?... I've seen bigger and more valuable application companies get sold off for way less
I would personally agree with you. Way over priced. The acquisitions we've seen lately remind me of the bubble we had around ~2000

Yusuf M. said,
The value lies in the number of users. So many people use WhatsApp compared to other services.

While I agree they paid for the users, how are they going to get back that "value" in the future? It will be very interesting how this plays out...

Awesome success story. Kind of funny to think that by Facebook not giving this guy a year some years ago, it now cost them $19 billion. Not sure if it would have been developed in house if he had gotten the job anyways, but we'll never know.

It's a good thing Facebook rejected him (obviously for him). But even if he was hired and his 'idea' made it to the stage-gate model, I doubt Facebook would have launched WhatsApp without ads. It wouldn't have stood out among all the other messaging services.

If FB had launched it they would have done so without ads for the first 2 or 3 years to build a user base. I doubt as many people would have used it if it was seen as part of FB though. FB have reached Microsoft levels of dislike in many quarters and anything with their name on it is distrusted. Not quite sure how Google with their pretence at "open" and basically being an ad firm have so far mostly managed to avoid such impressions.

I think the difference between Facebook and Google is that Google is 'helpful'. People have used Google's search service succesfully in many parts of their life. Whereas Facebook has become something you need to have.

FalseAgent said,
"Looking forward to life's next adventure" and that was WhatsApp. Wow. Amazing.
Facebook embedded the idea in his mind for maximum success for the both of them.


Facebook may be delighted with the $19bn (£11.4bn) deal for WhatsApp, but it apparently missed out on having the company's co-founders as employees just a few years ago.

Rumour has it that Jan Koum, 37, and Brian Acton, 44, tried and failed to get jobs at the social networking giant after leaving Yahoo!, where they met, in 2007.

Looks like Brian was rejected by both FB and Twitter, and Jan by FB too.

In a blog post after the Facebook deal was confirmed, he also traced the firm's policy of not harvesting user data back to Mr Koum's upbringing in communist-era Ukraine.

He said: "It's a decidedly contrarian approach shaped by Jan's experience growing up in a communist country with a secret police.

"Jan's childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped.

Hmm, wonder what he'll have to say when the inevitable FB integration happens. Or maybe he'll be long gone by then.

Mr Koum laid out his anti-ads, anti-data collection philosophy in a rare post on the WhatsApp website in June 2012.

Explaining why the firm chose to charge $1 a year rather than sell ads, he quoted Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt's character in the film Fight Club: "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s*** we don't need."

Google would never have been a good fit then, but wonder if they really think FB is better and will keep its promise of never interfering.

Well FB are marginally better than Google at least. But overall if they remain true to their word in not allowing adverts I wonder how FB plan to monetise this.