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Snapchat Hires Google Exec for Security, Debuts Chat

Snapchat Inc. is adding executives and new features, as it steps up efforts to build the company.

The Los Angeles-based startup, whose mobile application lets people send annotated photos that disappear, said today it hired Jad Boutros from Google Inc. as its director of information security. The company also unveiled an option for users to chat with text, stepping into an increasingly crowded mobile-messaging market that has drawn giants like Facebook Inc.

Snapchat is building its executive ranks and creating more features after turning down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook last year. The company has recruited Emily White from Facebook’s Instagram and Peter Magnusson from Google for top positions. Snapchat is also dealing with the snafus that sometimes afflict young and fast-growing technology companies, including having to apologize for a breach earlier this year that caused data such as users’ phone numbers to be exposed.

At the same time, it is grappling with more competition in mobile messaging. In February, Facebook agreed to buy WhatsApp Inc., which has 500 million users, for about $19 billion. That sparked a flurry of dealmaking in messaging, as smartphone users worldwide increasingly use Web-based services to communicate rather than paying for text messaging.

In March, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. invested in messaging startup TangoMe Inc. at a more than $1 billion valuation. In February, Rakuten Inc. purchased another messaging company, Viber, for $900 million, and SoftBank Corp. sought to buy a piece of Naver Corp.’s Line, a similar app that is popular in Japan.

Facebook, Twitter

Facebook also added messaging capabilities to its Instagram photo-sharing application last year, while Twitter Inc. this year added the option for users of Vine, its app for posting short videos. Twitter this week said that improving private messaging is a top product goal.

Mary Ritti, a spokeswoman for Snapchat, said in an e-mail that people now send more than 700 million disappearing “snaps” a day, with more than 500 million stories viewed daily.

Snapchat has also been working to improve security after the data breach. Boutros has been at Google since 2004 and previously was a senior software engineer at Oracle Corp., according to his LinkedIn profile.

“The prospect for working with a fast-paced driven ambitious smart young startup was too appealing to turn down,” Boutros said in a post on Google+, announcing his departure from Google.

Snapchat, born in 2011 in a fraternity house, provides tools that let users easily draw on photos, to put a mustache on a selfie, for example. The images are deleted seconds after they are accessed. The company’s investors include Institutional Venture Partners, General Catalyst Partners, Benchmark, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and SV Angel.

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