It’s Spring semester 2011 at Stanford University and a rich frat kid is giving an in-class presentation on an app he created that lets users send ephemeral photos to each other. Instead of tons of interest and a standing ovation, the students watching the presentation didn’t really care about the product; expiring photos didn’t sound appealing to them.
The app in question was called Picaboo, and it was created by the aforementioned rich frat kid, Evan Spiegel. One day, presumably when he’s chilling at his frat house doing frat-boy stuff, his buddy Reggie Brown walks in, and probably said something like, “Hey, bro! Dude, bro, I’ve been sexting this one chick bro, and want to send her a pic of my junk, bro, but I don’t want her to put it up on Facebook or somethin’ ya know bro? Dude, we should totally make an app for that, bro!”
And the idea for Snapchat was born.
Quickly Evan, Reggie, and another buddy of Evan’s, Bobby Murphy, got to work on developing the app. Reggie came up with a name and a logo, and before long Picaboo was on the App Store.
The three of them worked very long hours over the next few months, all the while Evan and Reggie were working on their studies (Bobby had graduated by the time they started working together). Evan then decided to use the app as his project for a Product Design course he was taking, and that’s where he first presented the app to anyone outside of the trio.
With a funny little ghost as it’s logo and a name like Picaboo, the app didn’t take off; it was launched in July 2011, but by the end of summer had amassed less than 130 users. It seemed like the app was dead in the water, and that these young entrepreneurs had wasted time and energy for nothing.
Evan Spiegel, despite his thin frame and boyish looks, is no quitter. He knew that this product could catch on, so he, Reggie, and Bobby kept at it.
In Fall of 2011, the three ballers were getting a little antsy, and reasonably so; their app wasn’t taking off as they’d hoped. Tensions between Evan and Reggie grew seemingly each day, and eventually they got into a pretty serious argument; Reggie didn’t like that his name wasn’t first on the patent for the app, and wanted 30% equity in the company as well.
Evan doesn’t deal with lames like that, and kicked Reggie out of the squad. Reggie wasn’t a fan of that though, and went into the shadows, waiting for his time to pounce.
Meanwhile, Spiegel and Bobby Murphy decided to relaunch Picaboo, and renamed it Snapchat; maybe a restart was what they needed to get the app poppin’. Once the Fall semester of 2011 started up, Snapchat downloads neared 1,000, and it was looking like a successful relaunch.
By Spring 2012, Snapchat had grown monstrously, having amassed over 100,000 users; I think Evan Spiegel really started to feel himself by then, and he was dreaming of dollar signs, as a venture capital firm had invested $485,000 into the app.
The second Evan saw the money deposited into his bank account, he gave away all of his f*cks and walked onto campus with his swag at level 9,000; Evan Spiegel, CEO of a rising frat startup, didn’t need Stanford anymore. Who needs a degree when you’ve got racks on racks on racks in your bank account and have a rapidly growing app?
Evan promptly dropped out of all of his classes only a few weeks before graduating, and gave his full attention to Snapchat.
Snapchat was starting to grow very quickly, and by February 2013 Snapchat users were sending content 60 million times per day, and that’s when VC firms started to pile in.
That same month, after getting huge $13.5 million Series A investment from VC firm Benchmark, Reggie Brown popped his head back into the scene, filing a lawsuit against Snapchat for breach of a joint venture, among other things.
Evan Spiegel was flying high at this point, and pretty much didn’t care that Reggie had filed the lawsuit. Why would you, when you know your company is worth millions and millions of dollars?
By summer of 2013, Snapchat was given a valuation of $800 MILLION DOLLARS, and presumably Reggie Brown was in some dark corner, rocking back and forth in the fetal position. I mean, the bro did miss out on millions of dollars for the app he ‘created’, although he didn’t really contribute much more than that.
Fast forward to near the end of 2013, and Mark Zuckerberg was taking a look at Snapchat; he liked what he say and started to develop an app that was almost an exact copy of Snapchat, poorly named “Poke”. He was trying to compete, but pretty much no one gave a rat’s ass about the app; they were all too busy taking self-destructing selfies on Snapchat.
Since Poke tanked, Zuck decided to simply buy Snapchat; can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.
Snapchat was worth a lot by this time, but how much do you think Zuckerberg would fork over for control of Snapchat? Let me just say this: Evan Spiegel gets bought out by NO ONE.
Zuckerberg had offered THREE FREAKIN’ BILLION DOLLARS to buy Snapchat off of Spiegel and Murphy, and Evan was just like, “Nah fam, we good here.” I think Zuckerberg ran back home to his mommy at this point.
Evan was so sure of himself and his product that he said no to THREE FREAKIN’ BILLION DOLLARS!! You gotta be a certain type of crazy to say no to a deal like that.
You’d think that the pressure of a lawsuit, enormous buyout offers, and just being a young CEO of an incredibly successful company would make Evan snap, but he seemed to keep his cool.
But then, in December 2013, Snapchat got hacked, and the usernames and phone numbers of over 4.5 million users were leaked. Yeah, that can’t be good.
You’d think that the company would be on red alert and that everyone would be scrambling to fix the issue, but Snapchat didn’t seem to really care about the leak. Evan Spiegel didn’t offer a public apology, and people started to get pretty pissed at the young company.
The Feds started to get involved as well, and in May 2014 Snapchat decided to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over two issues: one being the hack, and the other being that it had not been honest about the amount of data they collected on each user. It was starting to look like Snapchat didn’t have all of it’s ducks in order.
That Fall, Reggie came out of the shadows with a team of lawyers, ready to get as much cash out of the lawsuit as possible. The only thing is is that Spiegel’s mom and dad are both very successful lawyers, and he surely had an arsenal of lawyers with him, ready to fight Reggie’s suit at every turn.
Rumors then started to pick up that they would actually settle out of court, and on September 9th, Reggie finally got his dues; he got an undisclosed sum of money (surely a few mill) and was finally given credit for creation of Snapchat.
Evan was likely sick and tired of appearing in court all the time and was ready to move on after a few public mishaps, so he settled with Reggie. It was time to move on and put all of his focus on Snapchat, which was seeing half a billion snaps being sent per day.
That was until some emails he’d sent as a frat bro were leaked. Can Spiegel catch a damn break?!?
These emails painted Spiegel as a total frat bro who was only concerned with ragers, girls, and making sure those kegs got finished before the PiPhis got there. At a time when Spiegel needed to look like a squeaky-clean CEO, he looked like a total jackass and professional douchebag.
Well, he looked like a douchebag who was worth billions of dollars, but no one cared about that. Still, Speigel and Co. soldiered on.
A year later and Snapchat is the king of social media, with hundreds of millions of daily users, awesome new features such as Discover and Live Stories, and Spiegel hasn’t taken a misstep in some time.
Snapchat’s rise was incredibly quick, and it almost fell apart just as fast. What kept the wind in the sails was Spiegel’s determination and grit to never give in, never give up, and never to get bought out.
He started off as a rich frat baby developing an app to help his friend sext, became CEO of an incredibly successful app, got tons of attention (not all of it good), dealt with lawsuits and hacks, and never seemed to budge. While the walls seemed to be crashing down around him, he never lost sight of his mission, something that other 20-somethings cannot say for themselves.
You may know of him as douchebag kid who runs an app for sexting, but he’s not mistaken about his identity; he’s Evan Spiegel, CEO, and that’s all that matters right now.
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