WhatsApp's Billionaire Founder Jan Koum Leaves to 'Work on Cars, Play Frisbee'

The co-founder of WhatsApp is leaving the Facebook-owned messaging company to collect air-cooled Porsches, work on his cars and play ultimate frisbee.

Jan Koum, 42, announced Monday in a personal note that he would be moving on from the application he first created alongside Brian Acton, 46, back in 2009. Four years ago, the Mark Zuckerberg-led social network purchased the company for $22 billion in cash and stock—making the pair overnight billionaires.

Following his departure confirmation, a date for which has not been revealed, speculation has mounted that Koum—who sits on Facebook's board of directors—had clashed with Facebook over how it used personal data collected from WhatsApp and how it could incorporate advertising into a future business model.

According to The Washington Post, he was also concerned about alleged plans to weaken WhatsApp's encryption. Currently, the content of messages sent by its one billion-plus users every day are only accessible to the sender and receiver.

End-to-end encryption scrambles the content while a text is in transit and, at least in theory, is not readily accessible to outside eyes, even from Facebook. It is believed that Koum made his decision to leave prior to the Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal that Facebook recently became embroiled in.

"Ultimate frisbee"

In a brief post published to his personal Facebook page, Koum wrote: "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.

"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. 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. I'll still be cheering WhatsApp on, just from the outside."

WhatsApp and Facebook messenger icons. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Under the update, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered his thanks. "I will miss working so closely with you," he wrote. "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 centralized systems and put it back in people's hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp."

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

According to Forbes, Koum has a real-time net worth of approximately $9.1 billion and is placed at number 170 on the top billionaire rich list. For comparison, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who urged Facebook users to abandon the social network in March, is placed at number 251, with a net worth of around $5.7 billion.

Jan Koum
Jan Koum, co-founder and CEO of WhatsApp, speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake