Snapchat is the hottest mobile app on the market, but that’s not the only place where things are heating up. Reggie Brown, a former classmate and fraternity brother of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and CTO Bobby Murphy, claims he was wrongfully ousted from the company and unfairly screwed out of his company stake and hundreds of millions of dollars.
If you look at the lawsuit deposition videos released by Business Insider, Brown just might have a solid case to make.
In the videos, you’ll see that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel actually admits that the core feature of Snapchat, disappearing photos, was actually Brown’s idea! In fact, Spiegel says Brown “may deserve something for some of his contributions.” This seems to be a reversal from Snapchat’s previous stance that Brown’s ownership claims were “frivolous.”
Of course Snapchat’s lawyers aren’t too excited about the videos being leaked to the press, and they have filed a restraining order against Brown and his law firm, Lee Tran Liang & Wang to prevent him from telling his story to the press. Brown is set for a tell-all exclusive interview with GQ soon, though, which Snapchat would desperately like to block. Brown is now looking for one-third of Snapchat, even though he previously agreed to a smaller 20% cut according to the legal documents.
The first few clips from the depositions discuss Snapchat’s founding story, where the CEO admits Reggie Brown came up with the idea:
During Brown’s deposition, he was also asked to recall the inception of Snapchat.
“Basically I told [Evan] I wanted to make an application that sends deleting picture messages,” Brown said. “He got excited. He started saying you know, ‘That’s a million dollar idea! That’s a million dollar idea!'”
Brown also mentioned discussing to split the company 50/50 where Spiegel would be CEO and Brown would be the marketing officer and they would look for a coder.
Apparently Brown’s story lines up with Spiegal’s take too:
Spiegal went on to say he doubted Brown’s technical capability to contribute to the application, “Because [Reggie] was my friend. And he was excited about the project and I wanted to include him.”
Interestingly while Murphy and Spiegal were careful with their words denying Brown’s claims, many of the exhibits introduced undermine their positions. For example Murphy was asked if Brown was ever referred to as an employer of Picaboo, Snapchat’s predecessor, of which Murphy responded no. This would imply that they were business partners. And one minute later, to Murphy’s dismay, he was shown the following exhibit of an automated email from Facebook to Brown which reads:
Bobby Murphy tagged you in Picaboo under Employers.”
His reaction after:
“Uh … Well it looks like here that I did something to that effect,” Murphy said. “I don’t have a specific recollection of this happening … although I would say that it would have been unclear to me what … tagging someone as an ’employer’ under Facebook would mean.”
Spiegel also got tripped up when another telling email he sent was shared. The email read:
I just built an app with two friends of mine (certified bros..)”
Here’s that clip:
After seven seconds, Spiegel replied:
“Reggie may deserve something for some of his contributions.”
Snapchat sees more than 400 million photos shared over snaps each day and recently spurred buyout offers from Facebook and Google worth up to $4 billion.
What do you think? Should Snapchat’s executives man up and give Reggie due credit and compensation for his original idea?