HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (The Street) -- Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel currently runs what has become the most preferred social app among youngsters, and the most coveted startup among investors and would-be acquirers. But Intuit (INTU) - Get Report Co-Founder Scott Cook can say he spotted brilliance in Spiegel long before anyone else, even well before the now 24-year-old even had an inkling of what was to come.
Cook and Spiegel first connected during the latter's undergraduate tenure at Stanford, a story that the Intuit creator recounted Monday for the audience at the Techonomy conference held at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. As the story goes, Spiegel was auditing a Stanford MBA class. The topic of the day focused on Intuit's beginning and the company's early failed attempts at raising capital. Cook was the guest of honor.
"This particular class of MBAs was really missing the boat. They just weren't getting the issues. They didn't understand ... it was the worst case discussion of that case," Cook, pictured on the far right, said Monday in response to a question from TheStreet. "Toward the end of the class, one guy, way up at the sky deck of the classroom, gave his take on the case and he saw the stuff the other MBAs didn't. It was profound."
The profound student was Spiegel, who Cook, after the class, asked the professor to meet and was surprised to learn he was not an MBA student. Cook was so taken with Spiegel that he "quickly offered" him a part-time job at the company's headquarters to work on a research project called TxtWeb. Spiegel lasted less than two months in that gig before he "decided he had better things to work on." Cook, however, remained a fan and eventually invested in Snapchat.
"I invested in the company because of him, because I thought he was such a great entrepreneur," Cook said, adding that he wasn't initially a believer in the business of disappearing picture messages. "I was sure that Spiegel would find a business idea that would actually work, instead of his original one."
Coming from the Intuit co-founder, the remarks help to discredit Spiegel's reputation as a boorish frat guy and accidental billionaire, who stumbled onto something big on the back of an ousted co-founder.
Just three-years-old, Snapchat reportedly raised money last month from Yahoo! (YHOO) at a $10 billion valuation and is still going after additional funds. The company's young CEO is perhaps best known for last year reportedly saying no to Facebook's (FB) - Get Report Mark Zuckerberg and a $3 billion buyout offer. The decision seemed crazy at the time, given that Snapchat only had an $800 million valuation and wasn't making money. In mid-October, Snapchat started showing its first advertisements to users.
--Written by Jennifer van Grove in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
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