Who is Evan Spiegel? The Snapchat founder who reinvented social media
Evan Spiegel may not be a household name himself, his product certainly is. The 28-year-old CEO of Snap Inc, and the co-creator of Snapchat, was named the world’s youngest billionaire by Forbes in 2015- though he’s certainly not new to wealth.
The son of two lawyers, Spiegel was born in Los Angeles on 4 June, 1990, and has been surrounded by money ever since. He attended the prestigious (and expensive) Crossroads prep school, which he would drive to in his Cadillac Escalade, and later, his BMW 550i.
He got the idea for Snapchat while attending Stanford University, where he studied product design. He was also a very active member of the renowned Kappa Sigma fraternity. In fact, Spiegel met his future business partners Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown at a frat party.
The idea for his disappearing messaging app was part of the trio’s 2011 class project and was promptly laughed at by his classmates. But Spiegel, Murphy, and Brown started working on their app regardless, launching their prototype later that year. Known as Picaboo, the app failed. Miserably. After scrapping it, the trio rebranded and relaunched as Snapchat, and we all know how that worked out.
Spiegel likes to keep his private life, well, private. In 2017, he married his girlfriend of two years, retired model Miranda Kerr, and bought a £9.3 million house that had once belonged to Harrison Ford. On 7 May 2018, they had their first child, who they named Hart Kerr Spiegel, after Evan’s grandfather.
Spiegel dropped out of Stanford shortly before he was due to graduate to work on Snapchat full time. A risky decision and one that turned out to work in his favour. Within a year, Snapchat had pulled in over one million daily users.
Snapchat has been praised for its design and concept, which combines instant messaging, social media, and AR tech into a user-friendly camera app. It was this revolutionary approach to messaging caused Snapchat’s explosion in popularity, as well as its iconic messaging system: picture messages called “snaps,” which disappeared after ten seconds.
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But the app, and its popularity can’t be credited entirely to Spiegel – although we’ll get to that later.
Over the next few years, Snapchat continued to grow, faster than anyone could have anticipated. By the end of 2013, over 400 million snaps were being sent a day. This growth led to a rebranding in September 2016, when the company name changed from Snapchat Inc to Snap Inc. It was here that the team also revealed Spectacles: smart glasses that allow users to record video and post it to Snapchat.
Snap Inc went public in March 2017 at $33 billion (£25.6 billion), making Evan Spiegel the youngest CEO of a publicly traded company at 26 years old.
Currently, his net worth is around $2.7 billion (£2 billion), though, at his peak, he was worth $4 billion (£3.1 billion). And of course, he’s still living lavishly. His current car of choice is a cherry red Ferrari, typically followed by his massive security detail.
Despite his CEO status, Spiegel hasn’t quite left behind his days as a frat boy. Leaked emails reveal misogynistic jokes, stories about urinating on drunk women, and boasts about cocaine use. You know, real classy stuff. Spiegel publicly apologized for these remarks, of which happened during his frat days, and claimed that “they in no way reflect who I am today or my views towards women.” Still. Not a great thing to have attached to your name.
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Beyond the emails and rude remarks, Spiegel was also a part of a massive lawsuit, at the hands of his old business partner, Reggie Brown – a lawsuit that would cost the company millions.
Brown claimed to have come up with the initial idea for Snapchat, as well as the iconic “Ghostface Chillah” logo. Despite this, he had been left out when it came to sharing ownership and profits. Despite the work he had reportedly done for the company during development stages, Brown had no role in the company and was making no money from the app’s wild success.
Brown sued Spiegel and Murphy in February 2013, but the lawsuit was settled out of court in 2014 for £122.4 million. As part of the settlement, Brown was credited with the concept behind Snapchat, and Spiegel delivered the following statement: “We are pleased that we have been able to resolve this matter in a manner that is satisfactory to Mr Brown and the Company. We acknowledge Reggie’s contribution to the creation of Snapchat and appreciate his work in getting the application off the ground.”