Evan Thomas Spiegel is the co-founder and CEO of Snapchat. He’s also the main shareholder. Indeed, he both owns and controls Snapchat, and his stake in the company is currently valued at around $3 billion.
Early business involvement
Spiegel’s career in business started whilst he was still a student at the Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica. He interned at Red Bull in the sales and marketing department where he broadened his knowledge of consumer culture. He also worked at the biomedical company Abraxis BioScience.
Spiegel later enrolled at Stanford University to study product design and was known to attend graduate-level classes on venture capital and entrepreneurship. Some of these classes were delivered by notable entrepreneurs such as YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Whilst at Stanford, Spiegel befriended Intuit cofounder Scott Cook after listening to one of his presentations. The up-and-comer reportedly begged Cook for a job and then undertook a paid internship working on the company’s TxtWeb project.
Spiegel also met friends and eventual Snapchat co-founders Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown at Stanford. In April 2011, he proposed an ephemeral messaging app as part of a class project, and, a few months later, a prototype of the concept known as Picaboo was launched.
The main premise of Picaboo was that pictures, photos, and videos within messages would disappear after a short period of time.
Picaboo’s popularity took off in 2012 which prompted Spiegel to leave Stanford and focus on the app full-time. By the end of the year, the platform passed 1 million daily active users and there were 25 so-called “Snaps” sent every second.
In 2014, Spiegel turned down an offer from Mark Zuckerberg who wanted to purchase the business for $3 billion. Google came knocking soon after with a $4 billion offer and it too was declined.
IPO and billionaire status
Snap debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in March 2017. The opening price of $24 per share equated to a market cap of $33 billion, or three times that of Twitter’s $11 billion valuation at the time.
The 26-year-old Spiegel became one of the youngest CEOs of a public company and was there to ring the opening bell himself.
Headwinds and recovery
After the successful IPO, Spiegel decided to expand his team into the thousands and made himself central to all technology development. But by 2018, the platform lost 5 million users and the company’s share price dropped by 90%.
The reasons for the decline were multifaceted. Snapchat faced security issues after accidentally leaking its own source code. The platform also introduced un-skippable ads in the face of stiff competition from WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.
Spiegel’s leadership style was also subpar, once admitting in 2015 that “I’m not a great manager”. Employees described him as aloof and disconnected from operations, and some complained that they were frequently unaware of the products Snap was working on until they were released to the public.
A human-centered approach to technology
To his credit, Spiegel fixed his internal work style and repositioned Snapchat based on a human-centered approach to technology. He invested heavily in AR tools such as rabbit ears that while gimmicky, were adored by Snapchat’s younger user base.
The company also introduced a 5-minute content platform for teens and another app called Bitmoji where users can create Simpsons-like caricatures of themselves. Lastly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Spiegel introduced a mental health app for teens and also partnered with Headspace to create a min-meditation series.
- Evan Thomas Spiegel is an American businessman and entrepreneur who is best known as the co-founder of Snap Inc. In 2015 at the tender age of 25, Spiegel became the youngest billionaire in the world.
- Spiegel met friends and Snapchat co-founders Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown at Stanford. In April 2011, he proposed an ephemeral messaging app as part of a class project and later launched a prototype of the concept known as Picaboo.
- After a successful IPO, Snapchat started to lose users and revenue. But Spiegel turned the company around with a human-centered approach to technology, among other things. He also reconsidered his aloof and sometimes disconnected leadership style.
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