AIB Featured Business Leader – Evan Spiegel

AIB Featured Business Leader – Evan Spiegel


Boasting the title of “world’s youngest billionaire”, co-founder and CEO of Snap Inc., Evan Spiegel, has certainly captured the attention of many in a short period of time. At just 26 years old, and with an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion, Spiegel’s rise to success in business is nothing short of remarkable.

Since its inception in 2011, Snapchat has become one of the top social media applications in the world. Mediakix reports that the app is worth $20 billion, and with almost 100 million people using it daily, this does not come as a surprise. Advertisements on Snapchat are viewed up to a million times per day, making it a very a popular advertising choice for businesses. It’s clear that Spiegel has done something right in his short career, but how did he work his way to the top?

Growing up in California, Evan Spiegel attended Santa Monica’s Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences. During high school, he took design classes at the Otis College of Art and Design and Pasedena’s Art Center College of Design. After school, he was accepted into Stanford University for a Bachelor of Arts/Science, studying product design. While he was a student, Spiegel undertook an unpaid internship in sales at Red Bull. He then completed several paid internships as a careers instructor in South Africa, for a biomedical company and at Intuit, allowing him to see how large-scale businesses operated.

At Stanford, Spiegel met fellow students Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown at his fraternity house. In 2011, the trio worked together to develop an app called ‘Picaboo’ – a photo-sharing program that could send photo messages to contacts with a timer, removing them in 10 seconds or less. For those of you not familiar with Snapchat, that is the exact premise of the app. When Picaboo did not take off, Spiegel and Murphy rebranded it as ‘Snapchat’, and Spiegel left Stanford to focus on the business. He said, “We would experiment and fail. We must have attempted nearly 34 projects” before one took off.

After just two years in business, Snapchat was said to have a 28-person team operating from Venice, California. It was around this time that Evan Spiegel turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook, who clearly saw the app as strong competition. Spiegel told Business Insider, “There are very few people in the world who get to build a business like this. I think trading that for some short-term gain isn’t very interesting”. The company continues to attract increasing amounts of users as well as significant interest from investors. It remains one of the most talked about companies, with well-known celebrities as both users and advocates.

When talking to Entrepreneur, Evan Spiegel stated that business success for him is “not about working harder; it’s about working the system”. While at Stanford, he did exactly that as he persistently networked his way up to meeting influential people from the likes of Google and Intuit – ultimately leading to his paid internships at a later date. Spiegel also encouraged entrepreneurs not to feel bad if they sell their venture, stating, “Just don’t stop there – find something you aren’t willing to sell”.

Forbes estimates that Spiegel has a 13 per cent stake in Snapchat’s ownership, making him number 99 on its 2015 ‘Richest in Tech’ list, and number 12 on the 2015 ‘America’s Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40’ list. In 2013, he won Crunchies Best Mobile Application Award, and he was honoured with the 2015 Eddy Award by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation in recognition of his role in the development of the economy and creation of well-paying jobs for its residents.

What do you think?

At such a young age, Evan Spiegel has achieved what most of us only dream about. He has had a fast-tracked journey to the top, but has also experienced some of the challenges that we all face along the way. I’m interested to hear what you think though – what interests you most about his career? What lessons can you take away from Snapchat’s success thus far?

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Forbes, CN Net, Wikipedia, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, The Famous People and Mediakix.

Image Credit: Entrepreneur

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