I find the story of the entrepreneurs behind Snapchat extremely interesting, and given that Snapchat, Inc. is currently in the waiting period of their IPO (they’re expected to go effective tomorrow with sales of shares starting Thursday) I thought I’d draw some attention to the company. I’ll give a brief summary of how Snapchat got started but link to a more detailed article.
Snapchat was started by three friends at Stanford: Evan Spiegel, Reggie Brown, and Bobby Murphy. Although Snapchat wasn’t their first idea and dive into entrepreneurialism (Spiegel and Murphy had previously started Future Freshman, LLC, which never caught on), it did begin with a eureka moment. Apparently, sometime in early 2011 Brown said “I wish these photos I am sending this girl would disappear,” and Snapchat was born.
The three of them began working on the project, originally called Picaboo, immediately that summer, with Spiegel as the CEO, Murphy as the CTO (and also in charge of programming the app), and Brown as the CMO. Picaboo didn’t exactly take off and Brown was eventually booted from young company over disagreements about equity splits and what order their names would appear on the technology patent. Sheesh.
Upon Brown’s removal, the two remaining entrepreneurs changed the name to Snapchat and soon users were flocking to the app. By April of 2012 they had grown to around 100,000 users. Since this influx Snapchat hasn’t looked back. I’ve taken the following graphic from their S-1 filing with the SEC to illustrate the evolution of Snapchat over the years.
I think it’s easy for Snapchat’s current users to forget how barebones the original app was. The things that seem so obvious and basic to us now, like stories and filters, started as huge innovations. Apparent in this timeline is also the company’s desire to slowly monetize its widely used app.
It’s really interesting to me that Snapchat still has an original founder, Evan Spiegel, at the helm. I’ve heard (perhaps in class) that the original founders of a company are rarely the ones to help it reach its full potential (thinking size and profitability). I imagine Spiegel, like any passionate entrepreneur, sees Snapchat as his baby, and that’s why he has been able to resist selling for huge amounts of cash (Facebook offered to buy Snapchat a few years ago for about $3 billion).
I’m interested to see how the IPO will affect Snapchat’s ability to grow and innovate as it has for many years.
Story of Snapchat’s roots: https://techcrunch.com/gallery/a-brief-history-of-snapchat/
Snapchat’s S—1 filing/initial prospectus: