Rumor mill, start your engines

Snapchat CEO meets with Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

Could Snapchat, the red-hot messaging service that is reportedly working on a new funding round that will value the company at $19 billion or more, be getting some of that funding from billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal? It sure looks that way: the Saudi prince’s investment company put out a statement on the weekend saying that bin Talal met with Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and the two talked about a “potential business co-operation” between their companies.

Prince Alwaleed — whose full name is Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud — is a member of the extended Saudi royal family, and a veteran investor who has a stake in social-web companies like Twitter and China’s JD.com, and a track record of investing early in technology players like Apple and AOL. As a number of sources have also pointed out, the prince recently sold his stake in News Corp. and is said to be looking for a new-media entity to invest some of his billions in.

Alwaleed’s interest may also be fuelled by the amount of usage that Snapchat gets in his home county. Many social-media apps like Twitter are popular in Saudi Arabia — in part because they give people a way to talk about the country’s current political regime and its various restrictions on free speech and other human-rights issues — but observers say the country is one of the largest U.S. markets for Snapchat in particular.

WaPo SnapChat

Snapchat has been growing rapidly over the past year, and now has more than 100 million monthly users. And while the service started as an “ephemeral messaging” app that automatically deleted messages after a certain amount of time, it has expanded its horizons beyond just that market by launching a number of new features — including a new service called Discover, which provides short video clips and other content from media partners like CNN.

Discover is still relatively new, but media-industry insiders say the number of unique visitors and engagement levels the service is driving are huge: Digiday quoted one executive as saying the traffic numbers were “f***ing incredible.” And in a recent piece about how new apps like Snapchat and Vessel are trying to compete with YouTube, the WSJ said that the Food Network saw more than 10 million unique visitors to its site in just 12 days.

The platform’s popular “Snapchat Stories” are also driving massive numbers of visitors, as my colleague Carmel DeAmicis recently reported. Numbers like that are making many media watchers sit up and pay attention, so it’s not surprising that they would have caught the eye of a prominent internet and media-industry investor like Prince Alwaleed. Whether the Saudi billionaire eventually pulls the trigger and makes an investment in the company, however, remains to be seen.

15 Responses to “Snapchat CEO meets with Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal”

  1. ewalsh5

    CIOs of tomorrow must drive innovation and reward it enough to cut across legacy IT bureaucracy for faster time to market, application development speed and product development. It also helps if their C-suite perception goes beyond maintenance, allowing them to leverage customer feedback, and innovate both at business model, application, route to market, channel communication levels AND at operational and interfacing options. bit.ly/18KwUhf – commenting on behalf of IDG and Red Hat

    • Yeah I tilted my head at that comment too… It seems the correct way of stating that would be “international” rather than “U.S.”… Unless somehow recently without any indication the Suadis are part of the US now?

  2. Fennec

    I don’t agree with Saudi investors at all. They might have polished their countries exterior up, but I still have gay friends there (who must live there for their work in air travel) who are dying inside (and if they’re not careful, dying in general).

    • Fennec

      Creepy how?

      If you’re trying to pull a “eww men in a room they must be gay” thing then you can GTFO.

      If you’re trying to pull a “eww men in a room they oppressed the women to get there” thing then you can see how many female bones lie on history’s battlefields and at the gates to cities.

      If you’re trying to pull a “eww men in a room who believe in a magical sky daddy that makes them oppress everyone around them” then I agree.

      • Mostly ewww all men in a room with tech and arabic leaders should make any self-respecting, thinking women cringe and shake their head for the condition of our pitiful condition in year 2015, when we could be so much better than we are.