Posted: May 2nd, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
Look over to one of the upper corners of the room you’re in. What’s there? If you’re like me, probably nothing.
Three Stanford product design majors are building a speaker to take advantage of the wasted space and natural acoustics of the corners of your room.
The Tiptop speaker is a small pyramid that can stand alone or fits into a mold made for the upper corners of a room; like a Jambox, it’s wireless and Bluetooth-enabled. When mounted in a corner, the speaker takes advantage of “room gain,” using the natural acoustics of a room to make the sound richer and more appealing.
“[The shape] changes how you use the product, but it also changes how the product uses the space” co-creator Jack Brody tells me, arguing that too many speakers are “repackaged goods” rather than actually fresh ideas.
Brody, Madeleine Thompson, and Alex Walker launched the project on Kickstarter yesterday and so far have 154 backers and have raised almost $30,000 towards their goal, at the time of publication.
They are aiming to raise $215,000 by June 1, just two weeks before the three seniors will graduate, to start producing the speakers. On Kickstarter, they’re selling Tiptops for early bird specials of $175 (first 200) and $199 (next 300), as well as the standard price of $249.
They also have philanthropic goals, pledging to give a portion of their proceeds to a Bay Area non-profit music foundation if they surpass $400,000 on Kickstarter, and lower, lighthearted goals, offering to do a push-up for every $1 donation “so we can get ourselves in Tiptop shape.”
The three product design majors worked on a social media aggregation site last spring, which they quickly abandoned.
“We knew we could never actually bring that to market,” Brody says. “This time around was totally different.”
They were in a capstone class for the product design major, where their classmates were working on a wide range of projects—from another successfully funded project Grip Clip to recyclable backpacks to run of the mill iOS apps.
Walker says they thought about the problems they and their friends had, particularly as college students and young adults living in small spaces.
One night this past fall, the three were in Walker’s room discussing ideas and music. Thompson was surfing Kickstarter for inspiration, while Walker sat at his desk; Brody lay on the floor looking up at the ceiling, when using the corners of the room struck him. They held the speaker up to the corner to test the sound and loved it.
“Things have kept happening like that,” Walker says. “It feels like the right use of our time because it’s almost developing itself. The idea came up very organically.”
They began making prototypes in Stanford’s Product Realization Lab, changing small details like smoothing the corners of the wall mount to make up for rooms’ imperfect corners.
They had friends come into a room with their eyes closed and would play songs for them with a speaker in the middle of the room and then with the speaker up in the corner. Walker says their friends thought they were playing two different speakers, and thought the “corner speaker” was much better.
They ran a similar test on me and it was my “aha” moment of reporting when I knew they were on to something. The same song sounded a lot richer and fuller when it was up in the corner. Plus, with a desk and room as messy as mine, I can use all the help I can get in de-cluttering.
Thompson, who is currently in New Jersey playing professional soccer for Sky Blue FC, balances training, schoolwork—she’s still an enrolled student and travels back to Palm Drive for the occasional test or meeting—and developing the product. As a result, Brody and Walker handle more of the physical iterations, while Thompson does more online work.
The trio hopes to raise their lofty Kickstarter goal to pay for more prototypes before settling on a final product and shipping to Kickstarter supports and potentially new customers by the holiday season in December.
Posted: May 1st, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | No Comments » | 0 views
Michael Arrington began moderating a panel at Disrupt NY today with Ron Conway, David Lee, and Brian Pokorny of SV Angel by noting that he was “pissed off” by investor Chamath Palihapitiya’s comments on Monday that startup quality is at an “all time low.”
“I don’t agree,” Lee said, explaining that he thinks the ideas in the last 12-18 months have been bigger and bolder than those before them, rather than “just mobile and social.”
“Innovation is not dead,” Conway added, explaining that SV Angel just added two new target sectors, education and the “Internet of things,” a term they’ve coined for hardware devices that are constantly connecting with the web.
Lee explained that SV Angel has had the opportunity to invest in a lot of exciting medical and biological startups thanks to the explosion of genomic and genetic data.
“There’s the chance to turn biology into a software problem. We think that’s really exciting,” he said.
Pokorny differed from Lee, explaing that he still sees huge markets for “fun” apps like Vine and Snapchat.
“It’s a messaging platform,” he said about Snapchat. “It’s massive. It’s the quickest way to send a message.”
“This is all bullshit, right?” Arrington countered, arguing against the ability of angel investors to really decide if something is a new trend that they want to invest in.
Posted: May 1st, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
Snackchat! Taco Bell tweeted, “We’re on Snapchat” last night, urging their Twitter followers to add them for a “secret announcement” sometime today. This is the first major brand to use Snapchat to reach customers, and could signal the beginning of Snapchat’s monetization.
Snapchat is an ephemeral photo messaging application that raised a $13.5 million Series A in February. Taco Bell reached out to Snapchat on Twitter yesterday; after a couple of responses from Snapchat (below), Taco Bell announced that they’re on Snapchat at the handle “tacobell.”
In December, when Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel told me the company was prototyping monetization features, I wrote about the most likely ways the company could monetize:
With a very captive audience, Snapchat could have very profitable ads. Imagine a picture snap once a day or every 10 snaps where you have to hold the image and view the ad for five seconds before using the app more. Or an advertising video snap that played on its own for 10 seconds, instead of you holding it down to view.
The problem with most mobile ads is that they take up too much of the screen at random times (Facebook app newsfeed, anyone?) and both mobile and web ads are ignored by users as they adjust to where the ads are located and just scroll past them.
Snapchat could offer advertisers a highly engaged user for a very brief period of time.
The most interesting part of this Taco Bell development is that the company asked followers to add them on Snapchat. There are two settings for “Who can send me snaps”: friends and everyone. Snapchat sends all users, regardless of their settings, video snaps on holidays like Christmas and New Years. If Taco Bell is asking users to add them, it means they’re — at least for now — only sending snaps to people who add them. But, at least from the tweets above, it looks like there’s been some sort of collaboration between Taco Bell and Snapchat so far.
Taco Bell doesn’t need Snapchat’s help to snap people who have friended Taco Bell. So the logical next step would be sending snaps to everyone, the way Snapchat sends holiday snaps to all users — regardless of settings and who they’ve friended.
This could be very lucrative revenue source for Snapchat. Rather than banner ads covering part of the screen in snaps, users could ignore snap ads and simply not open them. But I think a lot of users, myself included, would open most of the snap ads out of curiosity. And obviously, an opened snap reaches highly engaged eyeballs, as it fills the whole screen, with the user physically touching the ad.
Of course, some users will be pissed off by ads invading their Snapchat inboxes, a far more private space than the public streams of social networks. For now, Taco Bell snapping to their “friends” is an interesting first step towards monetization.
I’ve Snapchatted Spiegel and Taco Bell asking for comment (seriously). I’ll update the post if I hear back and once Taco Bell sends out their surprise Snapchat announcement.
Update: reader Adam Britten points out that this is not the first brand to use Snapchat, as frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles used the app for a coupon campaign in January. Nonetheless, Taco Bell is a far more recognizable brand with a huge marketing budget, so their use of the app is likely more indicative of a larger trend both for brands and Snapchat users.
Posted: April 29th, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
Paidpiper launched at Disrupt NY today, aiming to make your physical wallet, and presence, less necessary — in a good way.
At the beginning of my freshman fall at Stanford I was wandering around campus with a lanyard around my neck buying books, a bike, a mini fridge and more. Not destined to be an accounting major, I forgot to check to make sure I had enough money in my account, so I had to wait for my mom to transfer money to me before I was able to buy an Intro to Humanities book that served as a top-notch coaster.
Paidpiper aims to solve that problem (not the education one) with its consumer-facing app, Ok’d. Using Ok’d, you can walk into a store, snap a picture of a product, and send it to a friend, parent, employer, etc. and ask them to pay for it.
The payer receives a request, complete with price, product information, and a chat function between requester and payer, all in real time. Once the payer approves the request, the requester gets a barcode on their Ok’d app that they show to the cashier.
Ok’d runs on the secure messaging payment platform built by Paidpiper, which works on the existing credit card payment rails to program one-time use cards. The funder decides where, when and what can be purchased, but doesn’t have to be physically in the store or give someone else their credit card information.
Paidpiper says the merchant doesn’t need any new hardware or software to accept payment via these one-time use cards, as they just have to enter the card number or scan the barcode. The company also says it takes care of security by leveraging the credit card rails and handles card issuance regulations and Money Transfer Licenses requirements to make things easier for merchants.
Paidpiper raised $1,200,000 in March 2012 from CrunchFund (founded by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington), Blumberg Capital, and T5 Capital.
The company says you can send money to anyone, whether they have a bank account or not; as long as the recipient has a phone number, they can receive money via Paidpiper.
Paidpiper makes the cards redeemable only through the store where it is asked for, and every card has an expiration date, after which unspent money is automatically returned to the payer.
For now, the Ok’d pilot charges a service fee of up to 5 percent for every transaction. Ok’d is available now, and CEO and founder Atif Hussein tells me the company is now focusing on APIs to support Brands.
Hussein says the company believes every person naturally belongs to multiple networks, as small as our families and larger like followers of popular brands. Ok’d allows people to send and receive money in their small networks. Hussein says their goal is to drive measurable loyalty through fan-based foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores in a highly curated, controlled way.
“What you saw was a platform to move money around safely and securley,” Hussein explained, concluding the Disrupt presentation. “We built the Ok’d application on top of that.”
Posted: April 24th, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | No Comments » | 0 views
Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, spoke at the she++ conference last Saturday, discussing women in tech, his favorite new technology, and his thoughts on startup culture.
The video is above and you can read highlights of his keynote here. You can also find highlights from the conference here and see how Facebook’s presence at the conference shows a key part of its recruiting strategy.
Posted: April 20th, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Facebook | No Comments » | 0 views
Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer and Director of Engineering Jocelyn Goldfein spoke at the she++ conference today, making Facebook by far the most represented company at the Stanford conference.
Their public remarks and comments shed light on Facebook’s aggressive strategy to recruit talented engineers to join their “deep bench” — the company’s greatest asset, according to Goldfein.
“When you look at the numbers of CS majors that are graduating—where are we going to get more from?” Goldfein tells me. “The fact that women are such a small percentage of CS majors when they’re such a large percentage of undergraduates is kind of the missing link. And it’s really obvious when you think about it.”
“The numbers are a challenge,” Schroepfer explains. “There are just fewer women graduating and fewer women in the industry. So I think there’s just a smaller pool of people and I think, because of that, if Facebook had gender parity, then everyone else in the industry wouldn’t, just statistically. So our first problem is not a Facebook problem, it’s an industry problem.”
Goldfein has been heavily involved with she++, appearing in the documentary and speaking at both conferences. Schroepfer says the company does work with the Anita Borg Institute and Grace Hopper conference as well.
For the past few years, Schroepfer and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have guest lectured once per quarter in Stanford’s introductory CS class; it’s become both a unique aspect of one of Stanford’s most popular classes and a great recruiting event for Facebook.
“A lot of people take CS106A, the intro to computer science class, and it’s a phenomenal class, I think it’s the largest enrollment they’ve ever had this year,” he tells me. “But what you see happen is people take the class and then they move on to other things. They don’t actually end up majoring in computer science or being a professional in engineering. A lot of what we’re trying to do is just show up to the class and show people what it’s like to do this in the real world.”
Mark Zuckerberg in CS 106A with Stanford professor Mehran Sahami (Courtesy of Jacob Chen/The Dish Daily).
“Facebook has focused very hard on claiming our disproportionate share of the women that are out there,” Goldfein tells me. “Just like we want our disproportionate share of the people with iPhone experience, and we want our disproportionate share of the people with Kernel experience. There are a set of scarce, valuable, talent pools in software and we’re out to get more than our share. But that’s not a winning approach for the whole industry. Everybody can’t do that.”
Goldfein and Schroepfer say they then turn their attention to the “pipeline problem” and work to increase the total number of software engineers in the world, namely by increasing the number of women.
“We put a lot of energy into trying to find more women, because fundamentally for us it’s an applicant pool problem,” Goldfein says. “When women interview with us, we want to hire them and they want to work for us. Those numbers are great. The trouble is, there are just very few women we can find in the candidate pool.”
This summer, the company is experimenting with a program called Facebook University to “reach further up the pipeline.” While traditional Facebook summer interns are college juniors and seniors or graduate students in computer science, the company wants to reach students finishing their freshman year of college; Goldfein says they will teach these students principles of coding, particularly for mobile, and give them a taste of what working at Facebook is like. She says the inaugural Facebook U class for this summer is 30 students, two thirds of whom are female.
Posted: April 20th, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | No Comments » | 0 views
Marc Andreessen and Mike Schroepfer delivered keynote addresses today at the she++ conference, sharing their thoughts on women in technology and growing the pool of talented engineers.
Ayna Agarwal and Ellora Israni, two Stanford juniors who study Symbolic Systems and CS, respectively, founded she++ in January 2012 as a Stanford community for women in tech; Agarwal and Israni hope to spur girls in middle and high school to study CS, as well as their fellow Stanford students. Around 250 people attended the conference, half of which were Stanford students and about a quarter of which were high school students, according to Israni.
“There’s something to be said about this community that everyone’s going through the same things, has some sort of story to share, irrespective of their age gap or career background,” Agarwal tells me. “That’s what’s made the conference such a success.”
Schroepfer’s talk was unfortunately off the record, but I was able to catch up with him before it.
“If we’re building technology that the whole population uses, then we should have people of all backgrounds building that technology so that they build it for the audience that is themselves,” he told me. Read about Andreessen’s talk here.
Jocelyn Goldfein, a Director of Engineering at Facebook, presented and commented on the twelve-minute she++ documentary, in which she appears alongside Stanford students, professors, and alums.
“First and foremost, [my passion for she++] starts as an employer,” Goldfein said in her presentation. “There are not enough great software engineers in the world.”
Agarwal and Israni premiered the documentary to around 250 Stanford students on April 3; since then, they’ve received 60 sign ups to host screenings across the nation. They’ve also received requests in 8 different countries and are translating the documentary into 3 different languages.
Eric Roberts, a computer science professor at Stanford, says in the documentary that if every student at Stanford graduated with a CS degree, the Valley would hire them all.
The documentary, whose trailer you can see below, and conference shared many key themes, exploring why women don’t major in computer science in large numbers, and sharing personal stories from current Stanford undergraduates and women actively in the field.
“I tell a lot of people, men and women, to fake it till you make it,” Goldfein says in the documentary. “Someday you’ll look around and realize you aren’t faking it anymore. That game face of confidence is actually how you feel.”
Sandy Jen, CTO and Co-Founder of Meebo; Caroline Simard, Associate Director of Diversity and Leadership at the Stanford School of Medicine and Research consultant at the Anita Borg Institute; Debbie Sterling, CEO and Founder of GoldieBlox; and Donna J. H. Novitsky, CEO of Yiftee sat on a career panel at the conference. They shared how they decided to become entrepreneurs, challenges they’ve faced, balancing their tech work and personal lives, and their biggest failures.
Sterling said early in her process starting GoldieBlox she and her co-founder applied to a startup accelerator that was very male-dominated. They walked into a room of “about 80 19-year olds in hoodies” with their prototype hidden under a napkin, and another applicant asked, “Oh, did you bring us cookies?” GoldieBlox was not accepted to the accelerator and her co-founder quit, but Sterling kept after the company as a sole founder.
Agarwal and Israni organized the first she++ conference last April, which featured Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, Irene Au, head of user experience at Google, Julia Hartz, CEO and Co-Founder of Eventbrite, and Goldfein, among others.
“Last year we were just a conference and now we’re so much more than that,” Israni tells me.
Agarwal and Israni say they’ve worked this year to move the conference away from just their vision and incorporating their expanded she++ team’s and Stanford CS professors’ visions to make the conference more representative of the Stanford community. They’ve added smaller workshops and more one-on-one networking and mentoring this year in response to feedback.
The conference featured a student panel and workshops led by Snapchat co-founder Bobby Murphy and representatives from Box, Square, Microsoft, Udacity, Dropbox, Getco, LinkedIn, and Benesse on everything from “Computer Science in the Finance World” to “Acing the Technical Interview” to “Taking an App from Idea to Implementation.”
Posted: April 20th, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | No Comments » | 0 views
Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, delivered a keynote speech at the she++ conference today, sharing what technology is exciting him right now, what he thinks about current startup culture, and how Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, affected his view of Silicon Valley.
Andreessen described Google Glass as “potentially transformative for the entire industry. ”
“You put it on and you’re like ‘Oh my God, I have the entire internet in my vision. Where have you been all my life?,’” he said.
“I like to tell people that I’m beta testing the new Google Contact Lenses,” he joked to moderator Ruchi Sanghvi, VP of operations at Dropbox.
He added that Facebook and Google are taking search in very different directions and opined “There’s a lot more to be done with search.”
“New Facebook Graph Search capability I think is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen…It makes me wish a little bit that I was single again,” he said to laughter.
Andreessen said he switches phones every six months (between Android and iPhone) and he’ll get Facebook Home next week.
Sanghvi turned the discussion to Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In.
“Before Sheryl’s book, for 20 years, the answer has been, ‘Be gender blind,’” Andreessen said. “’Be gender blind.’ It’s not important; in fact, it’s not to be discussed. It certainly should not be brought into the hiring criteria and certainly should not influence how people manage. And basically have a straight meritocracy and ignore gender. Sheryl has provided a very, very provocative set of arguments that 1) That’s not actually working and 2) That managers, both female and male, actually have to take gender on squarely.”
“We’ll have to completely retrain managers and executives of all kinds to be able to do this,” he continued. “[Sandberg] argues very persuasively that it’s necessary, but it’s like landmine central with the way employment law works these days.”
“I think her book has been a wake up call that the current approach to solving the problem of gender imbalance— number one it’s not working, which is fairly obvious, and number two, it requires a rethink of basic communication and basic management. I think it’s a very good thing to be talking about this and debating this. I think that it’s going to take quite a while,” he said.
“Startups as a general category are probably highly overrated,” he said, responding to Sanghvi’s question about Stanford students graduating and deciding between starting companies and finding jobs.
“Basically its an irrational act,” he said, explaining the right reason for starting a company. “This idea was so powerful and compelling that if I didn’t do it I’d hate myself for the rest of my life.”
“I think that’s the part that’s getting lost,” he continued. “I think the cult of startups, and of course Stanford’s ground zero for this…Those startups are miserable experiences.”
Andreessen argued that far too many entrepreneurs have an “incredible blind spot” to distribution, sales, and marketing in Silicon Valley right now, and shared his thoughts on immigration and innovation.
Sanghvi finished her scripted segment (before an open Q&A period) by throwing out words and getting Andreessen’s reactions to them:
Social: extremely powerful, and people underestimate how powerful it is
Enterprise: being reinvented
Silicon Valley: the world would be much better if we had 50 more Silicon Valleys but we don’t and we probably won’t for a long time
Genomics: largely a disappointment
Big Data: lots of social, cultural, political implications, not yet figured out
Aaron Swartz: tragedy. Absolute tragedy. Hopefully a future inspiration
2020: more people on the planet with smartphones than running water”
Posted: March 7th, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
“This is a case of partners betraying a fellow partner.”
One week ago, Reggie Brown filed a lawsuit alleging that he is a co-founder of Snapchat, a red-hot impermanent photo messaging app, and is entitled to an original one-third ownership stake along with co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy.
What’s at stake? Snapchat won “Fastest Rising Startup” at the 2012 Crunchies and recently raised $13 million at a $70 million valuation.
Brown and Spiegel lived on the same floor of the freshman dorm Donner at Stanford University during the 2008-2009 school year. The two quickly became very close friends.
The duo rushed the Kappa Sigma fraternity in the spring of their freshman year, and lived there with Murphy the following year.
“[Murphy and I] were living in the house together for a little while. He was down the hall and whenever I needed CS help I’d go wake him up at like four in the morning,” Spiegel told me in an interview in May 2012.
In the spring of 2011, when the app was born, Spiegel and Brown were juniors and still very close friends; Murphy had graduated the previous spring.
One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was in his room in the spring of 2011 with Brown and another member of the fraternity, neither Spiegel nor Murphy, joking about sexting when Brown came up with the idea for an app with disappearing photos.
“Spiegel wasn’t even part of the convo at the idea’s inception,” the source tells me. “Reggie [Brown] ran out of my room after he thought he struck gold and went to Spiegel…he just knew [Spiegel] would take him seriously and move forward.”
Brown’s lawsuit claims Spiegel “repeatedly exclaiming that Brown had indeed conceived of a ‘million-dollar idea.’”
While no one has been able to verify this exact scene as the initial creation of the idea, as Brown did not respond to an interview request and the source would not identify the other member in the room with them, nearly a dozen sources confirmed that Brown was involved in the early stages of the company, but refused to comment further as many claim ongoing friendships with Brown, Spiegel or both. Spiegel and Murphy did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Spiegel has never mentioned Brown in the five interviews he and I have done for TechCrunch pieces, and he has talked at length to the media about coming up with the idea with Murphy.
One example, possibly referring to Brown as the friend, pops up in Snapchat’s first media exposure, an April 2012 New Yorker article:
“The idea came to him when a friend said, “I wish these photos I am sending this girl would disappear.” As Spiegel and his partner conceived it, the app would allow users to avoid making youthful indiscretions a matter of digital permanence.”
When I asked Spiegel to elaborate on this comment—specifically the app’s ties to sexting—in our original May 2012 interview, he told me, “I think that definitely was the inspiration for something that ended up being quite different.”
That summer, Brown, Murphy and Spiegel worked at Spiegel’s father’s house in Los Angeles, where the company was headquartered until December 2012.
A source says Brown, an English major, acknowledged that he “had a little less to contribute but was still working on what he could do” and that there were emails about Spiegel and Murphy taking equal cuts that were larger than Brown’s. Spiegel majored in product design and Murphy studied mathematical and computational science.
Another source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, says Brown would go out constantly, partying at all hours and not working on the app, while Murphy coded and Spiegel worked on design. The source says Brown added virtually nothing to the team beyond the initial concept.
In August 2011, the suit alleges that Spiegel and Murphy changed the passwords and forced Brown out of the company after a big argument.
“There was a big argument over patent filing,” the first source tells me. “Then there was a huge fight where each person said terrible things about the other and then Spiegel changed the passwords and Reggie just sat and waited to file…it was something to do with who’s name was listed first. Literally a pointless argument. The bigger thing was what happened after. I really don’t think the patent ended up being a problem. It’s pretty much just a fight between friends and people calling each other out. Not much basis for why they actually had a big split up.”
After that, the source says Spiegel and Brown didn’t talk at all, besides a few attempts from Brown to try to figure out a settlement.
In September of 2011, as Spiegel and Brown prepared to return to Stanford for their senior years not on speaking terms, the app only had around 100 users.
That fall, Spiegel and Murphy introduced the app to parents and high schoolers in Orange County, and the app quickly gained thousands of users in tight circles in a few Malibu high schools. In January of 2012, Snapchat had over 30,000 users who were primarily using it as a goofy communication tool, not for sexting.
Over the next year, with Murphy leading the coding team and Spiegel speaking and maneuvering as the public face of the company, the app exploded in popularity, seeing 60 million snaps sent per day as of February 2013. Spiegel and Murphy regularly appeared on TV and in newspapers and blogs. The company raised nearly $14 million, hired more engineers and support staff, and moved to a new office on Venice Beach.
Meanwhile, Brown graduated from Stanford in June 2012 and moved back to his native South Carolina.
Disclosure: I am currently a junior at Stanford and the president of the Stanford chapter of Kappa Sigma. By the time I joined the fraternity, in the spring of 2011 (my freshman year), Murphy had graduated Stanford, and Spiegel and Brown had left the fraternity.
I have never met Brown. I’ve met Murphy once. I have gotten to know Spiegel since the spring of 2012, mostly through interviews for TechCrunch.
I have not previously disclosed this information beyond the TechCrunch editors because my connections to the Snapchat team were no more significant nor relevant than my ties to any other Stanford startup. Because key details of this story revolve around our shared community of Kappa Sigma, I find it important to disclose this information, but it in no way affected my objectivity or ability to report this story.
Posted: February 9th, 2013 | Author: Billy Gallagher | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
Snapchat, the impermanent messaging app that won “Fastest Rising Startup” at the 2012 Crunchies, has finalized a $13.5 million Series A round led by Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky.
According to The New York Times, Snapchat is now valued between $60 and $70 million. In December, GigaOm’s Om Malik reported that Snapchat was raising an $8 million round from Benchmark at roughly a $50 million valuation; and our own Eric Eldon wrote that Snapchat was raising a Series A “north of $10 million” at a rough $70 million valuation, led by Lasky.
Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel confirmed the funding to me, and noted that the company now sees 60 million snaps sent per day, and users have sent over 5 billion snaps in total. The company has hired five new employees, bringing the total staff to 10, and has moved to a new office in Venice Beach, CA.
Spiegel tells me the company will use the funding for “hiring and servers, definitely. But most importantly, it allows us to remain independent and continue to grow the Snapchat community.”
The Times also reported that Mark Zuckerberg met with the Snapchat team in December, shortly before Facebook launched
carbon copy competitor Poke.
Snapchat previously raised $485,000 from Lightspeed Venture Partners.
“I started hearing Snapchat in the same context as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook,” Lasky said to The Times, echoing Barry Eggers’ sentiments when he led Lightspeed’s investment. “That got me curious.”
Update: Lasky has posted about Snapchat on his personal blog, explaining that he will be joining the company’s board of directors along with Spiegel and co-founder Bobby Murphy.
“At Benchmark we search for entrepreneurs who want to change the world, and Evan and Bobby certainly have that ambition. We believe that Snapchat can become one of the most important mobile companies in the world, and Snapchat’s initial momentum — 60 million shared “snaps” per day, over 5 billion sent through the service to date — supports that belief. Snapchat’s ramp reminded us of another mobile app Benchmark had the good fortune to back at an early stage: Instagram.”
Lasky also noted that he spent most of his career in LA, where Snapchat’s offices are.