The growth of Airbnb is remarkable, the online travel platform has become the largest provider of accommodations in the world in less than a decade. Airbnb has disrupted the $570 billion hotel industry, its $100…
Evan Spiegel is the co-founder of Snap Inc., he is best known for reportedly rejecting a $3 billion offer from Facebook in 2013 to acquire Snapchat. Snapchat was only 2 years old, and Evan was only 23 back then, he went on and became the youngest self-made billionaire in the world 2 years later.
Evan was born in 1990, to a couple of successful lawyers. He grew up in a $4.6 million home in an upper-class neighbourhood in Pacific Palisades, LA. Growing up in a world of wealth, Evan attended Crossroads School of Arts and Sciences which cost $22,000 tuition fees a year.
Evan was fascinated with design during his teenage years, he took design classes at the Otis College of Art and Design while he was just 15.
Later, he had an unpaid internship at Red Bull where he learnt about marketing, and “how to throw great parties”. Evan was known for throwing parties while he attended Stanford University, he was a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
Majoring in product design at Stanford, his first real taste of tech and entrepreneurship came when he interned for Scott Cook’s Intuit on the TxtWeb project. After the Intuit gig, Evan and his fraternity brother Bobby Murphy started FutureFreshman.com, but it didn’t really take off.
The life-changing moment came in 2011, when another fraternity brother Reggie Brown, brought the self-deleting photo message idea to Evan. Together with Bobby, the trio launched a prototype called Picaboo, which they later renamed as Snapchat.
While Bobby focused on the coding, Reggie was assigned relatively menial marketing tasks, patent application, and the app’s “Ghostface Chillah” logo design. Reggie was reportedly forced out months later, he then sued Evan and Bobby and was eventually paid $158 million in a settlement in 2014.
The app’s popularity grew significantly and in 2012, Evan left Stanford to focus on Snapchat shortly before completing his degree. Evan joined the list of Stanford’s famous dropouts like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Elon Musk, Steve Balmer.
Companies started by Stanford alumni like Google, eBay, Netflix, etc. are valued at $2.7 trillion which could be the tenth largest economy in the world by GDP.
Amidst the controversy of being labelled as a sexting app, Snapchat had reached 1 million daily active users by the end of 2012. A year later, with just 20 employees and no revenue, the company was valued at a whopping $800 million.
Both the front-facing camera and address books on smartphones at that time have helped Snapchat gain significant traction. Snapchat hit the market at a right time with a drop-dead simple product, the ephemeral messaging concept was a breath of fresh air.
Snapchat really has to do with the way that photographs have changed.
Historically, photographs have always been used to save really important memories, major life moments. But today, adoption of smartphones with connected cameras, pictures are being used for “talking”.
So when you see your children taking a zillion of photographs, they are using photographs to “talk”.
Users, especially the younger ones, are able to freely capture the moments without worrying what comes next with lasting content on platforms like Facebook.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg first attempted to buy Snapchat with a $3 billion offer in 2013 but it was famously turned down by Evan. Facebook copied Snapchat’s disappearing messages, lens, geo-filters over the years but enjoyed the most success with Instagram stories.
In most social apps today, a text box is still the default way we share. Soon, camera is the future of how people share and communicate.
In 2016, Facebook tried again and Google had been reported attempting to acquire Snapchat with $30 billion, Evan again has no interest to sell.
In the same year, the company officially named itself Snap Inc., and unveiled smartglasses known as Spectacles. Spectacles does not position itself as a tech product like the clunky Google Glass, it is a product aligned with Evan’s vision of a camera-centric world.
Like Steve Jobs, Evan believes that Snapchat should think creatively of what people will want next, instead of running tests, collecting data to make decisions. Unlike most tech companies, engineers aren’t rock stars at Snapchat, the designers are. Evan’s success defies a lot of Silicon Valley convention.
Instead of Silicon Valley, Evan set up his headquarters at Venice Beach, Los Angeles. It is another example of creativity over geekiness. Alongside with Tinder, Snapchat were one of the first prominent social media companies to set up base at Venice Beach, which is now known as the “Silicon Beach”.
Snap officially went IPO in 2017. More significantly, Evan has helped everyone especially those in Silicon Valley understand how valuable the camera is.
You might argue that family background and luck contributed to his success, but it is undeniably that Evan is a visionary entrepreneur who rebels against the norm.
I am a young, white, educated male. I got really, really lucky, and life isn’t fair. So if life isn’t fair – it’s not about working harder, it’s about working the system.