The Case Study of SnapChat

Today, let’s talk about one company. SnapChat, Snap Inc.

The company is a rising star in today’s social media industry, and slowly expanding its share in the market.

SnapChat timeline
SnapChat is co-founded by two Stanford students, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy in 2012.

In today’s context, SnapChat can be referred to as an overnight success. The duo had started a company called Future Freshman before and it failed in less than 7 months. Later, they started Picaboo, which was SnapChat’s original concept, in mid 2012. After the official launch of the app, which was SnapChat, the app exploded in about a year. Users skyrocketed “overnight”, the app suddenly became viral and over popular.

Analyzing the success of SnapChat, it’s obvious that the company had little experience and hit its lottery.

Future Freshman was a service provided for high schoolers to help apply for colleges and universities. According to Spiegel, the website was a total failure that “nobody used it except my mom.”

Later, Reggie Brown found the two Stanford newbies and proposed the idea of
“disappearing messages”. The original idea came from Brown and Spiegel was responsible for app design and Murphy was responsible for the heavy coding work of the app.

According to Spiegel, Future Freshman only took him $2500 his own savings to on techcrunch

Before the massive success of SnapChat, Spiegel lived a rather “loser” life in Stanford, his girlfriend just dumped him and apparently he failed his first business. After the success, the guy is now married to a Victoria Secret model and has a net worth of $3 Billion. This is basically the story of underdog, loser becomes phoenix. But added the Stanford background, we can’t say he’s a total loser who doesn’t even have a proper background. So, a Stanford underdog per se.

There were some company shares disputes between the duo and Reggie Brown, who claimed that he owned 1/3 of the company shares, because of his original idea. But later Spiegel exposed that Brown didn’t do anything except came up the idea—he indulged himself into partying and socializing but did nothing for the company. Brown later filed a patent for this original idea which did not really get approved from US patent department. But still, Brown sued Snap Inc. for $200 million for his participation in SnapChat early stage.

In the Internet age, everything can happen fast, really fast. It took only 1 year and a half for SnapChat to go viral and stand shoulder to shoulder with social media conglomerates like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There are even scholars suggesting that SnapChat would be the next Facebook.

Tumblr, was also a short time hit. The author/founder of Tumblr didn’t graduate from high school and still scored a big transaction with Yahoo by selling Tumblr for $1.1 billion. And apparently Tumblr didn’t take too many years to enter public’s sight.

I personally think that success can take millions forms, but there are certain things in common.

The environment. I recall Spiegel said when he was in Stanford, there was the trend of making apps and scored big. This kind of positive and competitive environment gave rise to entrepreneurship. Plus that Stanford’s rich resources make lots of things possible. Murphy is a good case study, he’s majored in Mathematical and Computational Science, a decent choice for a coder. And the bulk of the SnapChat codes were handcrafted by him in early times, which laid down the foundation codes for SnapChat.

Ideas. The success of SnapChat can vastly be accounted for its “disappearing messages” idea. After PRISM (US spy program exposed by Snowden), citizens of United States definitely worried about their personal privacy on Internet, SnapChat was hitting a weak spot for many people. Second, SnapChat is anti-traditional, its newly “disappearing messages” way seems very appealing to youngsters compared to traditional way of storing all your information to your timeline that, your parents, your friends and other people can check whenever. This new concept opens new ways for people to communicate, they can talk very privately without the information being overheard or overseen by other irrelevant people. And it seems much more personal than former messaging apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Chinese Facebook WeChat is also using a model like this, keeps things more personal, and it suits Chinese social norms.

User experience. Out of millions of apps out there, why does only SnapChat hit the plateau? SnapChat’s design is very appealing, or in other words, cool to young people. The chibi ghost design and the overall yellow and white theme give audience an energetic and pop vibes. Other than the design, it would be how firstly they handled the responsiveness of the app when people used it. Was it fast enough? Was it stable enough? These all pertain to the codes and server managements. If all these were handled well in the early stage of a company, no wonder they would score a big success.

To be frank, in the Internet age, there are really many things counterintuitive. For likes of SnapChat that succeed mostly for their ideas. A company takes multiple ways to succeed in the long run, solely the idea is far from enough. It takes management, financial status, product quality and original ideas to truly run the company to a stable state. However, these newly emerged companies have proved many of these concepts rather “wrong”. Sometimes, it just takes a big idea and be ahead of everyone. I don’t know, this is the new era, but it’s definitely important to have all these elements met the standards when running the company to a higher state. But for the startup phase? I can’t say for sure.


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