Sequoia’s Aaref Hilaly Says Messaging Apps Are A New Kind Of Social Network

Investor Chamath Palihapitiya’s skeptical comments about the current wave of tech startups (comments that included a not-too-veiled dig at Snapchat), ended up fueling plenty of discussion at our Disrupt NY conference earlier this week. In fact, when I interviewed Sequoia Capital partner Aaref Hilaly backstage, Palihapitiya’s remarks provided a springboard for Hilaly’s take on messaging apps, including Sequoia-backed WhatsApp:

To us, they’re a pretty significant change. We see a company like WhatsApp as reimagining the social network. And the way I think about it is, What’s your real social graph? Is it the people you communicate with and spend time with, or is it the 100 people you barely know on Facebook? We think it’s pretty clearly the first of those, and that’s what mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp capture.

Hilaly went on to praise WhatsApp’s growth (users are supposedly sending 20 billion messages per day) and its design, but he also said there are other companies doing well, especially if you look in other countries. I asked if there’s a bit of a generational divide in terms of usage (which is another way of asking if I’m too old), and Hilaly said “it’s generational and it’s geographic.”

“A lot of these messaging apps get traction outside the US,” he said. “They’re popular in the US, but people live on them outside of the US. I think both factors have made the world a little bit slower to wake up to them than to other big trends.”

If you watch the video, you can also listen to us discuss Hilaly’s move from the startup world to venture capital, and Sequoia’s involvement in New York.