WhatsApp co-founder pours $50m into encrypted messaging app Signal

22 Feb 2018

Signal is one of the most secure messaging apps out there. Image: Goldlution/Shutterstock

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton provides major cash injection to expand Signal’s potential.

Brian Acton left WhatsApp, the company he co-founded with Jan Koum, after eight years in September 2017. Since then, the tech billionaire had been discussing plans to create a non-profit with technology and communications elements.

It emerged this week that Acton personally put $50m of his own funds into the newly established Signal Foundation, which will build and maintain the encrypted messaging app and possibly other apps in the future, too.

The Signal app is highly recommended by security experts and Acton has long been an advocate for digital privacy rights.

New role for Acton

Acton will also take the position of executive chair of the foundation, his first new role since he left WhatsApp last autumn.

This is especially notable as, up until this stage, Signal has maintained a tiny team of two or three developers at a time, so the millions of dollars provided by Acton could have a major effect on the future of the app and encrypted messaging in general.

Writing about the new partnership, Acton said: “As more and more of our lives happen online, data protection and privacy are critical. This isn’t just important for select people in select countries. It’s important for people from all walks of life in every part of the world.

“Everyone deserves to be protected. We created the Signal Foundation in response to this global need. Our plan is to pioneer a new model of technology non-profit focused on privacy and data protection for everyone, everywhere.”

Signal to use funding to scale up

Signal creator Moxie Marlinspike said the funding would go towards increasing the team size, capacity and general ambitions for the project.

Marlinspike said: “The addition of Brian brings an incredibly talented engineer and visionary with decades of experience building successful products to our team.”

Both Marlinspike and Acton noted the importance of retaining the app’s integrity as a private tool in an age where many conversations now take place over digital channels. They said that by running Signal through a foundation structure, some of the limitations that for-profit companies encounter would not be an issue.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects