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Snapchat nabs investment from Alibaba for $15B valuation

Chinese e-commerce giant invests $200 million in the 3-year-old ephemeral message service, sources confirm.

Snapchat dials up a $200 million investment from Alibaba. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has made an investment in Snapchat that could value the ephemeral message service at $15 billion, sources confirmed Wednesday.

Alibaba has invested $200 million in the startup, which specializes in messages that vanish after they are read, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The valuation makes the startup one of the top three venture capitalist-backed startups, tied for third with software and services company Palantir behind smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi and car service Uber.

The cash infusion is Snapchat's second in a little more than six months and its fifth investment round since 2013, the same year it famously spurned a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook. The startup's valuation has skyrocketed in the past year, thanks largely to a $20 million investment from venture-capital investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers that helped value the Los Angeles-based company at $10 billion.

The 3-year-old mobile app is extremely popular with teenagers, offering people a way to send text, pictures, and videos to friends that disappear after a few seconds. ComScore, an industry researcher, last year ranked Snapchat was the third-most popular social media app among people between the ages of 18 and 34.

Snapchat began in 2011 as a photo-sharing service but has since added video and chat functionality, as well as most recently launching Discover, a content delivery service with partners such as CNN, The Food Network and Vice.

The funding, which was first reported by Bloomberg, is far short of the $500 million that Snapchat had reportedly been seeking last month, which would have given the startup a valuation of between $16 billion and $19 billion.

Representatives for Alibaba and Snapchat did not respond to requests for comment.