Ex-WhatsApp CBO Neeraj Arora regrets $22B sale to Facebook

Neeraj Arora, former executive at WhatsApp who negotiated the $22 billion sale, has explained why he could not have predicted what Facebook would become.
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Neeraj Arora, founder of social media platform HalloApp, was the chief business officer at WhatsApp in 2014 when they negotiated their mammoth $14 billion sale to Meta, then known as Facebook. On Twitter, Arora says of the deal, "I am not the only one who regrets that it became part of Facebook when it did."

Arora traces the origin of the deal back to 2012, and talks about how the WhatsApp team refused to even entertain an offer until it became clear that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook seemed to believe in their ideals for encryption and user experience.

This included perks such as, "full support for end-to-end encryption, No ads (ever), complete independence on product decisions, Board seat for [co-founder] Jan Koum" and more.

This "partnership" with Facebook got off to a great start, as the negotiating team agreed to stay away from mining user data, ads, and agreeing to no cross-platform tracking. Arora and the WhatsApp team believed them, and moved forward with the deal.

But by 2017 and 2018, it seemed clear that Facebook was looking for work arounds, and pushing co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton to accept different forms of advertising, data mining and cross-platform tracking.

Acton felt so cornered by Facebook and Zuckerberg that he eventually left the company. As the social media giant started to feel the heat as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal after 2016, Acton came out with an unambiguous tweet that resonated across the social media industry. "It is time. #deletefacebook," he said.

Arora continues by saying that WhatsApp is now the second-largest platform in Facebook, but "its a shadow of the product" that the original team tried to build. He says that no one at WhatsApp knew that Facebook would eventually become a gigantic "Frankenstein" of a company that "devoured user data and spat out dirty money."

Arora ends with a simple plea. "In order for the Tech ecosystem to evolve, we need to talk about how perverse business models cause well-intentioned products, services, and ideas to go wrong," he said. "And where we go from here."

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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