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‘Fastest rising startup’ closes $13.5M for fastest fading photos

Comedian John Oliver may joke that SnapChat is designed for sending penis pictures, but the company is destined for a lot more.

SnapChat, an app that lets people share fleeting images, has closed $13.5 million in its first round of funding led by Benchmark Capital.

Oliver joked about the popularity of “sexting” while hosting the Crunchies, an awards ceremony that honors achievements in the tech world. SnapChat won the award for “Fastest rising startup” and is heralded as an example of the startup Holy Grail:  viral growth. A report in the New York Times states that the app sends more than 60 million messages a day and has millions of users.

The popular mobile social photo sharing service, based out of Los Angeles,  enables people to share a photo with another person or group of people who can only be viewed for a very short time (a few seconds). The person you send that photo responds with one of their own, which is also only available for a few seconds — hence the name “SnapChat.”

Photo sharing is one of the obsessions of our generation. Whether it is baby pictures on Facebook, a hipster coffee shop on Instagram, roasted chicken with bread on Foodspotting, room decor on Pinterest, or that day’s vintage-inspired ensemble on a fashion blog, taking and posting images is almost second nature. Sometimes, it feels like if no-one documents the moment on the internet, it doesn’t exist.

However, not every photo needs to live forever, which is where SnapChat comes in.

People can send images to their friends that may not merit (or be appropriate) for public, permanent display. A majority of the users are between 13 and 25, and wary of embarrassing content coming back to haunt them later in life. The story of the job-seeker denied a dream job due to a unflattering Facebook photo is something of a modern urban legend.

Speaking of Facebook, SnapChat founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy claim that Mark Zuckerberg met with them in December, just before launching its own self-destructing messaging app Poke. The competition has not seemed to diminish SnapChat’s success. The company is now valued at $60 to $70 million.

Rumors arose in December that SnapChat was raising an $8 million round at a $50 million valuation from Benchmark’s Matt Cohler. The rumors were half true, as rumors tend to be.

In fact, it was Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky who spearheaded the financing after hearing about SnapChat from his teenage daughter. Benchmark is also an investor in Instagram, the world-famous photo sharing app that Facebook bought for $1 billion in 2012.

After returns like that, it is no surprise that the firm is going down the rose-lined photo sharing path again.