Snapchat, the social-media app designed to let users send pictures and video that self-destruct after a set time -- and that seems to have prompted Facebook's competing Poke app -- has raised $13.5 million in venture funding.
The New York Times' Jenna Wortham mentions the cash infusion in an article about the app published Friday evening. Wortham reports that the funding was led by Benchmark Capital, which, she says, values Snapchat at $60 million to $70 million. She quotes Benchmark's Mitch Lasky, who learned of the app from his teenage daughter: "I started hearing Snapchat in the same context as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. That got me curious."
Lasky also suggested that the ephemeral nature of the app allows people to cut loose and not worry about a digital self that lives on forever -- thus it makes for a more authentic experience: "People are looking to communicate in a real way. The real self, as opposed to the projected self. That was the piece that resonated the most with me."
Venture capitalists are no doubt keeping their eyes peeled for the next Facebook or Instagram, particularly with some reports saying that Facebook may be fusty as far as teens are concerned. Facebook itself is aware of the issue, which is in part why it bought Instagram. It said in its 10-K annual report recently:
We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook. For example, we believe that some of our users have reduced their engagement with Facebook in favor of increased engagement with other products and services such as Instagram.
The Snapchat crew says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with them in December, Wortham notes, not long before his company banged out a Snapchat knockoff in a couple of weeks. Facebook's Poke app was quick off the blocks, racing to the No. 1 spot in Apple's App Store, but it's now absent from the Top 200, while Snapchat sits at No. 22 (Instagram is at 19, Facebook Messenger is at 29, and Twitter's Vine is at 42). Wortham reports that 60 million photos or messages are sent per day on Snapchat, and that according to Nielsen statistics, the app grabbed 3.4 million users in December, more than doubling its total from November. All of which makes it clear that, as CNET's Ben Parr pointed out, startups shouldn't necessarily freak out over a Facebook clone.