Evan Spiegel dropped out of Stanford in 2012 to focus more on an app he helped create: Snapchat. It allows users to send text and videos that then disappear, leaving no trace and no possibility of being shared by others across the web. After droppoing out of college Spiegel moved in with his father and used some of the $70 million the company has garnered in venture funding to continue to build out the app. In a recent interview with the Associated Press Spiegel recounted how his controversial company came to be:
A buddy of mine was bummed about a photo he (regretted sending). And so
we started looking at some of the other applications in the space that
were doing disappearing texts, photo, video. And they really had a hard
time because there was a lot of stigma around deleting things. But when
Bobby (Bobby Murphy, Snapchat chief technology officer and co-founder)
and I built the prototype and started using it, we realized how much fun
we were having sending the photos back and forth. And based on our
experience with the application we were able to do a good job describing
how ephemeral content can make an experience that is really fun,
exciting and way more engaging.
According to his bio on Snapchat's website, Evan dipped his toes into software development while in high school "developing simulators and video game emulators" before moving on to more complex websites he would build for freinds and family. The young tech hot shot now serves on President Obama's Council on Technology and Media and apparently has finished up his degree at Stanford.
Yesterday Spiegel and Snapchat reportedly rejected a $3 billion, all-cash takeover offer from Facebook (FB). The company has about 20 employees and no revenue stream but, according to the Wall Street Journal, Spiegel says he won't consider any offers until at least next year.
Related: Facebook Exposes Twitter’s Teen Trouble
Facebook's offer came only 14-months after it bought Instagram for $1 billion and is another sign that the social network is still groping for ways to stay relevant with teens. Oddly enough, about the only thing that seems clear is that Snapchat's college drop-out co-founders did the right thing by turning down Mark Zuckerberg's offer.
For those unfamiliar with the service, Snapchat is an app that sends self-destructing pictures or messages over smartphones. Where texting, Twitter and Instagram postings have an unpleasant tendency to come back to haunt indiscreet posters, Snapchat pictures and videos disappear after a maximum of 10-seconds. "Snapchat is the cool version of texting," says Breakout's resident teen social network source Rachel Fox. "Snapchat combines Twitter (TWTR) and Instagram and has a *poof* now you see it now you don't factor."
While Facebook's teen user base is showing signs of erosion, Snapchat is picking up steam. The company says it handled 350 million "snaps" in September, up from 200 million in June and just 60 million in February. "It's growing like crazy and Zuckerberg knows it's growing like crazy... it still has room to grow," says Yahoo Finance's interactive editor Phil Pearlman, making the case that Snapchat's co-founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel, was right to hold out for more money.
Other suitors are reportedly sniffing around Snapchat but Facebook is the most desperate player with the deepest pockets. For all its magnificent success, Facebook's ham-fisted attempts at creating its own versions of Snapchat make it abundantly clear that Zuckerberg's baby will never be cool again.
Snapchat serves the timeless human desire to be a little subversive. In a world where celeb "selfies" live forever, Snapchat lets users download an app, log in whatever ludicrous alias leaps to mind (See: my homage to "Snake Plisken" from the 1981 film "Escape From New York") and fire away. The messages can theorhetically be traced back to the sender but by internet standards Snapchat is still fairly anonymous. The lack of over-sharing and disposable nature of the message has made Snapchat a favorite for "sexting" and allegedly exchanging insider trading tips.
Facebook's most notable effort at capturing the Snapchat magic was the unfortunately named "Poke." To sign up for Poke a user logs in using his or her Facebook ID and sends messages to friends. As Mike Santoli's experimenal poke of Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Aaron Task makes clear, a picture may self-destruct but memories leave permanent scars.
Facebook is iredeemably uncool. Instagram bought it time but the endless need to monetize and the presence of grown-ups make it all but impossible for Facebook to sustain any teen appeal. Facebook is in the business of collecting your information and selling it to advertisers. It's what they do. Zuckerberg bidding for Snapchat is like the NSA taking over Bitcoin. It's a shotgun wedding of matter and anti-matter. Facebook and Snapchat simply can't co-exist. Being vanilla is Facebook's greatest strength and its greatest weakness.
Snapchat users are safe for now. Spiegel has made it clear that he's going to wait for Zuckerberg to come across with really huge money before he lets Facebook ruin his creation. Until then, Facebook users are going to have to settle for Poking one another while the teens hang out on Snapchat.
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