Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snap, is now worth $9 billion.

Guess how old he is?


Here's the story of how he did it...


Evan Spiegel was born June 4, 1990 to two highly successful lawyers, Melissa and John.

He attended Crossroads high school in Santa Monica, known for its focus on the arts and personal improvement.

Spiegel described his computer lab teacher as "his best friend."

In high school, his parents divorced and he moved in with his dad to Pacific Palisades.

John Spiegel would take Evan to build houses down in Mexico and Evan spent the last year of high school taking design classes.

Among other things, these efforts took Evan to Stanford.

At Stanford's Donner hall, Evan roomed across the hall from Reggie Brown. He also made friends with another student, Bobby Murphy.

The three were part of the fraternity, Kappa Sigma.

Evan became social chair as he had an infectious personality and loved throwing parties.

From early on, Evan knew he wanted to work for himself so he took classes he enjoyed. Most of them were entrepreneurial, design-focused, or computer science.

After his sophomore year, he and Murphy worked on a project called "Future Freshman"

Future Freshman was an aggregator of college information for high school students. Parents were the customers.

Spiegel had his fraternity's pledges do the manual data entry from a bunch of college websites.

It ended up failing.

Fast forward a little and one day, Reggie Brown had an idea.

What if he could send disappearing pictures? That way he wouldn't have to worry when sending drunken pictures.

He burst into Evan's room to share the idea.

Evan was energized.

But neither of them had the technical chops to build the product. After a few failed attempts to recruit a rockstar coder, Evan reached back out to Bobby Murphy.

Murphy agreed.

During the summer, the trio set up a home base at Evan's dad's house in the Palisades.

The first product was named "Picaboo" in July of 2011.

But Spiegel and Murphy didn't believe Reggie Brown was pulling his weight.

The last straw was when Brown filed their patent and put his name before the others. At the time, Brown was working remotely. He was locked out.

Now that Brown was out, the duo needed a new name.

How about Snapchat?

On their own now, Murphy and Spiegel kept building features at a furious pace and reaching out to small bloggers to gain early traction.

In March 2012, Barry Eggers, a managing director at Lightspeed learns from his daughter that her three favorite apps were: Angry Birds, Instagram and Snapchat.

He had hadn't heard of the third one.

His partner, Jeremy Liew, pursued Snapchat, investing $485k after Evan showed him the metrics.

The app's engagement was off the charts and DAUs were growing like wildfire.

About 9 months later, Mark Zuckerberg offered Evan $60 million for the company...

Evan turned him down.

In the same conversation, Zuck showed Spiegel a mock-up of "Poke" Facebook's exact replica of Snapchat, that would be releasing soon.

Evan went back to his early employees and handed out the book "The Art of War."

It was on...

Facebook's "Poke" ended up being a flop, as it didn't cater to the need of its demographic.

In fact, it actually boosted Snapchat's awareness.

Around this time, another high-profile start-up was founded by a Stanford student, Lucas Duplan, named Clinkle.

The idea was backed by Peter Thiel, Marc Benioff, and Richard Branson among others.

Clinkle raised over $25 million but never really got off the ground. It was a money transfer product.

Here's a picture of Branson and Duplan lighting cash on fire as a marketing stunt.

Clinkle even hired former Netflix CFO, Barry McCarthy, as its COO.

But a fully functioning product was never iterated on.

As a contrast, Snapchat was constantly being improved and user feedback was incorporated.

However, one distinguishing feature of Evan Spiegel is that he seems to know when to listen to users and when to just build something unique.

Unsurprisingly in this regard, his idol is Steve Jobs.

Spiegel even wanted to run an ad just like this one against Facebook.

In 2013, Reggie Brown brought a lawsuit against Evan and Bobby for stealing his idea.

Evan actually ended up hiring the same law firm that the Winklevoss twins did against Zuckerberg.

In 2014, Reggie was paid $157 million. The patent he filed was never approved.

Around that time, Evan moved his small team to Venice, CA.

In the first year, the company had 10 employees, the next, 30 and the year after, over 100.

By this time, Snapchat had already raised a $13.5 million Series A from Benchmark and an $80 million Series B.

Evan Spiegel had great insight around the product.

In late 2013, Snapchat Stories took off and then the Discover page broadened the company's use cases.

It also set the stage for monetization.

At this time, the company still didn't have any revenue.

Apparently, a year after Zuckerberg's original offer, he reached back out to Evan.

The new deal could be worth $3 billion after certain performance obligations.

Evan still turned it down.

At 23 years old, Spiegel would've owned roughly 25% of the company, or $750 mn.

But he knew Snapchat could be bigger.

He doubled down on monetization strategies, settling on advertising.

But the initial experience was clunky for ad partners since Spiegel only cared about the user experience.

Even still, Snapchat started signing on more advertisers.

Here we are in 2020 and Snap now does over $2 billion in revenue and has a $70 billion market cap.

Spiegel has shown tremendous foresight in not selling out to Zuckerberg, TWICE!

He's now 30 years old, with a $9 billion net worth.

My main source was this book, "How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story" by Billy Gallagher


Fun fact, Snap's logo is named "Ghostface Chillah"

You can find more details about Snap and the business model in this free post we wrote up in August for Business Breakdowns: businessbreakdowns.substack.com/p/snap-inc

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