WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum, who sold the instant messaging platform to Facebook for more than $19 billion in 2014, announced on Monday that he had decided to move on.
“I’m leaving at a time when people are using WhatsApp in more ways than I could have imagined. The team is stronger than ever and it’ll continue to do amazing things,” Koum said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee. And I’ll still be cheering WhatsApp on – just from the outside. Thanks to everyone who has made this journey possible,” he added in the post.
The announcement came amid reports that he had a difference of opinion with parent company Facebook over a number of issues including data privacy and encryption.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Koum was planning to depart “after clashing with its parent, Facebook, over the popular messaging service’s strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption”.
According to the report, Jan Koum “also plans to step down from Facebook’s board of directors”.
“The independence and protection of its users’ data is a core tenet of WhatsApp that Koum and his co-founder, Brian Acton, promised to preserve when they sold their tiny start-up to Facebook,” the report added.
Koum announced his exit plan soon after the report was published.
He said: “It’s been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people.”
“But it is time for me to move on. I’ve been blessed to work with such an incredibly small team and see how a crazy amount of focus can produce an app used by so many people all over the world,” Koum added.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg soon replied to the post by Jan Koum and said he would miss him.
“I will miss working so closely with you. I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralised systems and put it back in people’s hands,” Zuckerberg said.
According to a Tech Crunch report, WhatsApp’s top business executive Neeraj Arora could be made the new CEO. Arora has been with WhatsApp since 2011.
WhatsApp has 1.5 billion monthly users, which makes it the biggest mobile messaging service in the world. The WhatsApp Business app has over 3 million subscribers.
After the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook has warned investors that more users’ data scandals in the future may adversely affect the social networking giant’s reputation and brand image.
In its quarterly report shared with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), without mentioning Cambridge Analytica, Facebook said that its ongoing investments in safety, security and content review will identify additional instances of misuse of user data.
“We may also be notified of such incidents or activity via the media or other third parties,” Facebook said.
Appearing before the US Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the lawmakers that his own personal data was part of 87 million users’ that was “improperly shared” with the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.