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WhatsApp co-founder on FB deal: "It's going to change my life"

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton in his first public appearance said that the messaging company was not getting "swallowed by the Borg."
By Ananth Baliga   |   June 5, 2014 at 6:03 PM   |   Comments

PALO ALTO, Calif., June 5 (UPI) -- WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton said that he is still "numb" from the Facebook deal and is trying to come to terms with his new life as a a billionaire.

Acton, one of the two co-founders of the messaging app, was making his first public appearance at StartX, a startup incubator affiliated with Stanford University. The Facebook employee opened up about his personal feelings in a wide-ranging interview about the $19 billion deal with Facebook and WhatsApp's privacy policy.

"More than anything, you are somewhat numb," Acton said of the negotiation process with Facebook. "You are dumbstruck as to what's going on. You have this flotilla of lawyers around you. And it was a lot of lawyers, I'll tell you that. Ninety-six hours of being in conference rooms with lawyers non-stop."

"By the end of it you're just numb. You're just trying to sort of grasp it all, and I don't think I really do grasp it all just yet. I think that it will hit me in stages. It's going to change my life, I know that. I'm looking forward to it, but it also with some apprehension," he added.

Dressed in a WhatsApp company T-shirt, cargo shorts and a Stanford cap, Acton looked like he was unaffected by his billionaire status and looked every bit the unassuming Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Acton said that he and co-founder Jan Koum decided it was better to accept Facebook's offer rather than endure Wall Street's scrutiny by floating an Initial Public Offering.

"I think we hit a point in our lifetime of the company when we were either going to be acquired or have to go public," Acton said. "There's far more pain in going public. And Mark, by the way, already did it. So kudos to the guy for doing it. He had the energy to do it, he had the stamina do it. I don't know if I personally had that stamina."

Many analysts have warned that WhatsApp will now have to play by Facebook's rules, which will involve using user data to better their services, but Acton said that WhatsApp had no plans to change its privacy policy.

"It's not like we're going to, on day one, send all this data over to Facebook," he said. "And by the way, we don't have any data. People don't really understand this, but we don't have much beyond a phone number to work with."

WhatsApp and Facebook are both awaiting regulatory approval for the deal. The deal was approved by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S., but Facebook wanted the European Union to review the deal as well.

Follow @antbaliga and @UPI on Twitter.
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