When Snapchat recently went public, netting big returns for early investors, countless doubters were kicking themselves.
Chris Sacca was one of them.
Sacca, a former Google executive who has invested in countless companies and is a regular on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” said he had concerns about some of the content on Snapchat.
A father of three children -- ages 1, 3 and 5 -- Sacca told a crowd at South by Southwest on Saturday the fact that many people – including some minors – were sending X-rated photos via Snapchat made the app something he didn’t feel comfortable backing.
“How can you get past that?” he said. “I try to always be proud of what we invest in. We really have this deep filter.”
Sacca says he told Snapchat’s founders “no” in a face-to-face meeting, then ignored a followup email a short time later.
“I failed to reply,” Sacca said. “That was a billion, billion and a half-dollar mistake.”
Sacca says he also passed on Airbnb. He wondered: “What would happen if someone gets raped or killed in your house?”
And when Dropbox – a company with offices in Austin – came knocking, he says he was convinced the file-sharing service would never make it up against Google Drive.
Asked about Uber’s recent struggles, including accusations of sexism, Sacca said the ride-hailing app desperately needs to diversify its workforce.
“Cultures like Uber need people … who have grown up in diverse situations,” he said. “They can feed their perspectives into the totalities of how businesses are built.”
Sacca says he’s pleased to see that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is willing to bring in a No. 2 – a women or a minority, Sacca hopes – to help run the company.
“It took a few slaps to wake him up and make him open to that,” Sacca said.
Sacca was quick, however, to defend Uber over criticisms the company received when it continued operating at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport during a taxi strike after President Donald Trump implemented his travel ban earlier this year.
The company, Sacca said, wanted to make sure protesters could get to the airport, even waiving surge pricing – a move that Sacca said cost Uber a significant chunk of change.
“I actually think they did the right thing that night,” he said. “Uber genuinely thought they were doing the right thing, too.”
Without some serious changes, Sacca said, Uber risks “earning the reputation of United Airlines,” a quip that drew laughs from many of the out-of-towners in the audience.
Trump’s election shocked Sacca and many others in the tech sector. Even though Sacca admits having Trump in office will likely mean he pays less in taxes than if Hillary Clinton had been elected, Sacca says he’s still concerned.
“We are in an absolute crisis right now,” he said. “The Trump thing is really bad. If John McCain or Mitt Romney had been elected, we would have all been fine.”
One silver lining, though, is that the election showed that the candidate who spends the most on advertising – in this case, Clinton – doesn’t always win, Sacca said.
“That takes some of the sting out of this,” he said. “The total ad spend was decoupled from the result.”
So if money can’t win elections, what does that mean for Sacca’s strategy when backing candidates in future elections?
“We’re going to get good information out there and we’re going to mobilize our people and get them to the polls,” he said.
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