Snapchat has quietly raised nearly $500 million, according to an SEC filing released on the eve of the New Year.
Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky and Sony CEO Michael Lynton are named on the document as funding participants. A total of 23 investors participated in the round, according to the filing, although it does not list each individually.
Despite its popularity, Snapchat has recently been struggling to find its financial footing. To do so — and strengthen ties with Wall Street investors — Snapchat just hired Imran Khan as its first chief strategy officer. Reporting directly to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, Khan is expected to start at the end of January.
Well-known within tech finance circles, Khan had most recently served as head of Internet banking at Credit Suisse. There, he was best known for leading Alibaba’s blockbuster IPO earlier this year.
To date, Snapchat has raised more than $160 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Benchmark, among other investors.
Since popularizing the disappearing mobile message, Snapchat’s growth has been impressive. The company experienced the highest growth in time spent in July, with total minutes up 114% year-over-year — from 2.6 billion to 5.5 billion minutes, per a note from JPMorgan, citing comScore data. (By comparison, Facebook saw its time spent rise from 137 billion to 178 billion minutes, during the same period.)
Yet Snapchat’s revenue strategy remains in its infancy. Snapchat only recently introduced ads to its platform; it remains opt-in and untargeted. Just like content in Snapchat’s "Stories" section, the ads disappear after users view them, or within 24 hours. Also, at least for the moment, Snapchat is promising not to put ads in users’ “personal communication” -- i.e., Snaps or Chats.
Snapchat also recently waded into the peer-to-peer payments business in collaboration with Square Cash. To use its new Snapcash service, users need to volunteer their debit-card number on their smartphone, where the account information is held by Square.
Mobile payments are becoming big business, according to Forrester, which recently predicted that the total volume will almost triple from around $50 billion this year to $142 billion in 2019. Peer-to-peer payments are also expected to more than triple from $5.2 billion this year to $17 billion by 2019.
Threatening its standing as a secure platform, however, hackers recently intercepted hundreds of thousands of private user messages, which they promised to release to the public.
As such, it remains an open question whether users will trust Snapchat with their money.
Prior to Khan’s appointment, Snapchat had been trying to assemble a more experienced management team. Earlier in 2014, it poached the global director of Facebook’s Preferred Marketing Developer program, Mike Randall, to serve as vice president of business and marketing partnerships. In late 2013, Snapchat brought in former Instagram executive Emily White as COO.