Snapchat is arguably the most popular app in the world. Over 100 million people use the app every single day, and these users span the entire planet; it’s likely that you closed the app on your phone just moments ago.
We know Snapchat as the premier app for expiring selfies, sexting, and for the little ghost guy, but not many know who actually came up with the idea that inspired Snapchat, or who runs the $4 billion dollar company today; the history behind the app may surprise you.
In 1990, Evan Spiegel was removed from his alien incubator after 100000 years of hibernation. Nah, he was born normally like the rest of us, but that would’ve been dope, huh?
I’ll download an app a 100000 year old space creature made any day, but Gary Busey isn’t very tech-savvy.
Okay, back to the story. So Evan Spiegel is born, and let me tell you; Evan Spiegel is not an ordinary person.
His parents are both lawyers, so he grew up rich as hell; you now, the typical silver spoon to gold spoon success story. It’s truly inspiring, watching a rich genius frat boy become a stupid rich genius frat boy.
Like most kids, Evan got to go to Stanford University. It’s at this fine establishment that Evan met a douchey frat guy named Reggie Brown, and a kinda-fraty but nicer and arguably more intelligent guy named Bobby Murphy.
While Reggie would prove to be useful at pretty much just one occasion, Bobby would become a guy that Evan could count on, and they still rely on each other today. Bobby’s a true bro, ya know?
During his junior year at Stanford, Evan was taking a product design course, as was his major. During the course of this… course, students worked on a product they’d created and would present it as their final project at the end of the semester, since show and tell is always important.
All of the students created a product they’d designed, but honestly, only one mattered.
“Ay, what did you think of that kid Evan’s presentation? What was that, an app? With pictures that go away forever after you see them once? Pfff, that’ll never happen.” That’s probably what some kid in that class said once Spiegel showed off the brand new app he’d been working on all semester.
You see, earlier in the semester, Reggie Brown, the frat bro we brought up earlier, had come to Evan with a query that went something like this: “Yo bro! Yo, what’s good man? So, bruh, I was bangin’ this chick last night and now today I kinda want to send her a pic of my dick, ya know? I know she wants to see it. Anyway, bro, so like dude I want there to be a way for me to send or even receive nudes without getting caught, bro. Ya know, I’m sleeping around and don’t want these side chicks to know, ya know bro? So, like, can you whip up an app for that real quick? I gotta go to the gym in ten minutes. Pre workout is kickin’ in.”
So Evan hears this idea and his mind runs wild with it. Pretty soon he’s hooked onto the idea and he’s working out some code with the help of his buddy Bobby, who’d actually already graduated from Stanford.
A few weeks go by and Spiegel and Murphy have a first edition of an app that would soon take over the freakin’ world. Evan uses this product as his final project for his product design class, and gives his presentation to an uninterested audience that saw nothing in this photo-sharing app.
That was probably the first time those students had ever been wrong about something in their lives.
Instead of giving in, Evan and the crew kept at it, brainstorming features and constantly working at making the app better. The trio had a vision of where this app could go, and they put in every resource they had to keep it running.
It’s not easy to run an app that no one knows about, and Evan undoubtedly spent many nights running through possible outcomes, not all of which had happy endings. Originally called Picaboo, the app had fewer downloads in the App Store than your grandma has Facebook friends; you can’t be poppin’ all the time, kids.
This lack of instant success and billions of dollars in investments frustrated Evan, Reggie, and Bobby, and it showed. Reggie got especially pissed off when his name wasn’t listed first in the patent filing for Picaboo, and tensions between Evan and Reggie only got worse.
Reggie, despite only contributing the idea of the app, wanted a third of the equity, as there were only the three guys involved in the app, but Evan and Bobby were like, “Nah bish.” Reggie didn’t wasn’t a fan of that.
Too bad, ‘cause he got kicked out of the squad! Reggie was no longer wanted on Picaboo headquarters, which happened to be Evan’s dad’s beachside crib in SoCal.
Evan and Bobby subsequently worked on blocking Reggie from anything and everything that was related to Snapchat; they needed a clean break so they could focus on getting the app off the ground.
Evan saw the potential of the app, and knew that if he could have full control of it, then he could transform it into something people actually want. The first step he took was to rename it; Picaboo wasn’t working, and a relaunch could be what was needed to get traction in the App Store.
During summer 2011, Picaboo became Snapchat and suddenly the app had over a thousand downloads; it wasn’t much, but it was certainly an improvement over Picaboo’s awful numbers. Evan saw he was moving in the right direction and started to come into his own.
He wasn’t just some rich, Stanford frat boy anymore- he was a CEO. With Reggie out of the picture, Evan and Bobby could focus on improving the product, working on the user interface, and fixing the bugs that haunt all new apps; there was no longer any time for drama.
Snapchat was growing fast, seeing thousands of downloads each month, until by spring 2012 when it breached 100,000 users. Snapchat was now legit in the eyes of teens and millennials, and Evan and Bobby were flying high.
If Evan was acting cocky and felt sure of himself now, he was going to go to another level of doucheyness when Snapchat received it’s first round of seed funding. VC firm Light Venture Partners invested $485,000 into the app, giving it a valuation of $4.25 million.
The moment the cash was transferred into his account, Evan dropped out of Stanford and put his full attention towards the app. Who needs a degree when your parents are loaded, you’re loaded, and you’ve got the hottest app on the iPhone?
Definitely not Evan Spiegel.
By the end of the year, even Facebook had heard of Snapchat and founder Mark Zuckerberg liked what he saw; so much so that he decided to come up a blatant ripoff of the app, hoping to create some competition in the ephemeral photo-sharing market. The only thing is, nobody gave any attention to Facebook’s response to Snapchat, poorly named Poke, and no one downloaded it.
Evan Spiegel never even batted an eye when the social media powerhouse tried to compete directly with him, and that speaks volumes on Evan’s ability to lead a company, despite his age; not many people, no matter how experienced, have the guts, vision, or ability to compete with Facebook on any level. Somehow, a 22 year old competed directly with Facebook, and not only competed, but he won .
Nearly a year later, after significant growth and success, Zuckerberg offered to buy Snapchat from Spiegel and Murphy for THREE BILLION DOLLARS. I’d take that money without thinking about it, but I’m not Evan Spiegel or Bobby Murphy.
Speaks a lot for how the two entrepreneurs viewed their product; clearly they had a vision for where it was going, and a three followed by nine zeros wasn’t enough to change that vision at all. From how Zuckerberg walked away with his tail between his legs, Evan and Bobby might’ve thrown the money right back in his face and laughed.
Maybe by that time Evan and Bobby moved past the money, maybe it wasn’t something they cared about anymore. Both millionaires a few times over before Zuckerberg even entered the picture, Spiegel and Murphy might’ve fallen too much in love with their app; it was their baby, and nothing could part them from it.
Evan changed in many ways in between the time when Reggie came to him with the idea for what would become Snapchat and now, with Snapchat being arguably the most popular app in the world; he got in it for the product, hoping to make it big, not concerned with much else.
Now that he’s more than made it big, his attitude has changed. His vision has changed.
Now, Evan cares so deeply about Snapchat, that not even a three billion dollar buyout was enough to change his mind. The old Evan would’ve rightfully taken that money in a heartbeat, and so would all of us.
There’s a whole lot that’s happened in the past four years that would’ve stopped many startups in their tracks, whether it was the photo or email leaks, the lawsuits, or any of the difficulties that startups face, but Evan never gave in.
While we look ahead to the next day or next week, Evan has been looking years ahead; if he had never envisioned where Snapchat would be in the future, he would’ve snatched his share of the $3,000,000,000 out of Zuckerberg’s hand before he even said a word, and rightfully so. But Evan does look to the future, despite his youth and apparent cockiness; he’s incredibly brilliant and every step he takes now is measured.
A couple years ago he was looking to the future, but he was careless, and that showed on more than one occasion. Today, he moves in expectation of what’s happening down the road, focusing less on what’s going on at this moment.
You don’t see that in many CEO’s, let alone someone in their twenties.
In case you hadn’t gotten it by now, Evan Spiegel is no ordinary person.
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