When Evan Spiegel, 22, and Bobby Murphy, 24, launched Snapchat in September 2011, they shared it with 20 friends.
Snapchat is a mobile app that lets users take and send mobile photos to others. Messages can be drawn or typed on top of the photos and the images self-destruct moments after they are viewed.
Today Snapchat has about 3.4 million users and 60 million images are swapped daily. That's one-tenth the volume Facebook sees.
It may be a fad like DrawSomething proved to be last year. But how do you go from obscurity to mobile virality?
For Snapchat, the answer was a high school in California.
According to The New York Times, the first traffic spike the founders saw occurred a few weeks after launch. There was a flurry of activity between 8 AM and 3 PM that originated in Orange County, California.
Spiegel's mother had told Evan's cousin about Snapchat, and he started using it with friends as a way to pass notes in class. Users grew quickly from there.
Snapchat has its origins at Stanford, where Mr. Spiegel and Mr. Murphy first met as fraternity brothers. Mr. Spiegel presented a prototype of Snapchat in spring 2011 to one of his classes, but it was greeted as impractical and silly by his classmates.
...A few weeks in, they started seeing an influx of new users, paired with unusual spikes in activity, peaking between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
It turned out the activity was centered around a high school in Orange County. Mr. Spiegel’s mother had told his cousin, who was a student at the school, about the app, which then spread throughout the school.
Other high school students in Southern California picked it up, with the number of daily active users climbing from 3,000 to 30,000 in a month in early 2012. Mr. Spiegel took a leave from Stanford last June and Mr. Murphy quit his job and the pair raised a small round of financing and moved to Los Angeles to work on the application full time.
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