11/07/2013 06:02 pm ET

How A Snapchat Founder Says He Was Erased From Startup History


Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is currently playing the role of Mark Zuckerberg in a reenactment of "The Social Network."

In the latest scene, ousted partner Reggie Brown lays out evidence in court filings that appear to show how Spiegel and COO Bobby Murphy rewrote the history of the app's origins.

Brown's lawsuit claims that as a Stanford University junior, he came up with the concept for what became Snapchat, that he mentioned it to Spiegel, a fellow Kappa Sigma fraternity brother, and that the two then recruited Murphy, an older fraternity brother, to work on the project.

While Murphy and Spiegel worked on the more technical side of things, Brown was responsible for marketing and wrote the FAQs, Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, according to the court filings. The suit also says Spiegel referenced Brown as one member of a three-person startup in several emails, and that Spiegel's father acknowledged in a text to Brown's mother that the three were working on creating the app.

But the lawsuit claims that in mid-August 2011, after a contentious argument, Spiegel and Murphy began changing passwords to lock Brown out of accounts related to the startup, and later cut off all communication with him.

For example, the suit cites a July 27, 2011, email Spiegel sent to a blogger prior to Brown's ouster:

I just built an app with two friends of mine (certified bros our frat just got kicked off campus) and we think you might really, really like it. It's called Picaboo and it's a game for sending disappearing pictures with your friends.

And a month later, an Aug. 30, 2011, email from Spiegel to a blogger after Brown's ouster:

I built an app with a friend of mine (our frat got kicked off last year...) and I think you'd love it. It's called Picaboo and it's a game for sending disappearing pictures with your friends.

(Spiegel was social chair of Kappa Sigma when the fraternity threw a party that led to its ejection from Stanford's campus in 2010, the Los Angeles Weekly reported.)

Brown's court filings also cite a July 21, 2011, email from Spiegel to a professor, in which he says that he created Picaboo with two classmates. Also among the documents is a quote from Spiegel's deposition, in which the CEO admits Brown came up with the idea for deleting picture messages.

This evidence comes in addition to the texts Brown already submitted to the court that show Spiegel crediting Brown with disappearing picture messages.

Brown is suing Spiegel, Murphy and Snapchat investors IVP, SV Angel, General Catalyst Partners and Lightspeed Ventures because, according to Business Insider, they collectively contributed $60 million towards the app in June, months after his lawsuit had been reported by the media.

Snapchat currently has 26 million users and is estimated to be worth as much as $3.6 billion, though the app does have its skeptics.

Reggie Brown Snapchat Filing October 23 2014 - Business Insider