Los Angeles Business Journal

Temporary Message App Speaks to Surprise Investor

INTERNET: Snapchat pulls in $50 million from fund that rarely backs tech. By Natalie Jarvey Monday, December 16, 2013

After months of speculation about whether Snapchat Inc. would raise a megaround of funding or sell to one of its numerous suitors, the Venice messaging startup has raised a more modest amount – but from an unlikely investor.

Snapchat filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week indicating that it had raised $50 million in its fourth round of funding. The company later confirmed with media outlets that New York hedge fund Coatue Management was the sole investor.

The round brings Snapchat’s total investment to more than $120 million in less than two years. The company’s existing investments were primarily from Silicon Valley venture capital firms.

Coatue is a fund rarely associated with tech investments. The firm’s only public tech investment before Snapchat was HotelTonight, a San Francisco reservation app. Coatue, which recently established a Menlo Park office, led that startup’s $45 million round through a new fund dedicated to investing in private tech companies.

Rumors had been swirling for months that Snapchat – which allows people to send photos or videos that disappear after up to 10 seconds – was in line for more money. In October tech blog AllThingsD reported that Snapchat could raise as much as $200 million from Chinese Internet company Tencent. That round would have valued the startup at nearly $4 billion.

Snapchat has not disclosed its valuation after the latest round. A company spokeswoman declined to comment for this story, but documents uncovered by VC Experts, a site that tracks private companies, last week indicated that Snapchat was looking to raised $55 million at a $2 billion valuation.

That’s only two-thirds the amount that Facebook reportedly offered to buy Snapchat in November. The company turned down the $3 billion cash offer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Snapchat’s new funding came soon after company attorneys requested a restraining order to prevent a former associate from disclosing confidential information.

That was the latest development in a lawsuit brought by Reggie Brown, a Stanford classmate of co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy. Brown alleges that he was involved in the formation of the business and that Spiegel and Murphy pushed him out of the company, denying him an equity stake.

The suit, which in the spring was halted to pursue a settlement agreement, heated up earlier this month when Snapchat’s lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan alleged that Brown and his lawyers at Lee Tran Liang & Wang had leaked confidential depositions to tech blog Business Insider that showed Spiegel admitting that the concept of disappearing photos was Brown’s idea. Quinn Emanuel requested the temporary restraining order to prevent Brown from disclosing confidential information.

Brown’s lawyers responded that the request for the restraining order was meritless because the law firm has also been leaking information to the press. Furthermore, Lee Tran lawyers claim the depositions were not designated as confidential.