L.A.'s Snapchat suddenly discovered by major media

snap.gif The old-fart editors have finally caught on. First came Bloomberg Businessweek with a cover story on Thursday that profiled the Venice-based start-up and its weirdly popular app that allows text and photos to be viewed for a few seconds before vanishing. On Saturday the NYT had a front-page piece about the young company, which was all but laughed at by the venture capital guys until it became clear last year that the idea was becoming hugely popular, especially at L.A. high schools In December, Snapchat attracted 3.4 million users, more than twice as many as the month before. Facebook, no doubt concerned about how the app could upend social media, has started a similar product called Poke. From the NYT:

Because images sent through the application self-destruct seconds after they are opened, Snapchat is being embraced as an antidote to a world where nearly every feeling, celebration and life moment is captured to be shared, logged, liked, commented on, stored, searched and sold. For people who don't want to worry about unflattering pictures or embarrassing status updates coming back to haunt them, the app's appeal seems obvious.


The Snapchat service, which started two years ago but has steadily gained users, has been painted as a popular way for people, especially teenagers, to send naughty pictures. But Evan Spiegel, 22, and his co-founder, Bobby Murphy, 24, say Snapchat is gaining traction for more than R-rated exchanges. Mr. Murphy describes the service "a digital version of passing notes in class." "You can't build a business off sexting," said Mr. Spiegel, using the term for sending racy pictures via text message chats. "It's such a specific-use case. This is about much more than that."

The Businessweek cover story is a little strange because the two founders were either unwilling or unavailable to do an interview. That sometimes happens when corporate executives anticipate a hard-hitting piece, but the Snapchat profile is hardly that. As you can see, the magazine uses a dandy GIF cover in its online edition. (By the way, Forbes had a piece on Snapchat back in November and TechCrunch did one of the the early stories in April.) The story behind the two founders remains thin - two Stanford alums who got the company going in the L.A. home of Spiegel's father and who now have offices in Venice. No specifics on revenues, business plan, numbers of staffers (can't be many), or whether buyers are lurking (though I'm sure they are). We do know from the Times piece that Snapchat has finalized a $13.5 million round of financing.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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