If ‘selfie’ is the most popular word of 2013 (come on, even Obama does it), then Snapchat is the answer to the obsession of self-portraiture. Snapchat allows its users to easily exchange photos and videos rapidly without the fear of permanence in cyber space. It seems not a day passes without the self-destructing messaging application making headlines. Most recently, Snapchat gained critical attention for turning down Facebook’s offer to purchase the app for $3 billion dollars. As a fellow 23 year old, it seems incomprehensible to me that Snapchat’s co-founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel, walked away from such a generous offer from the mega-entity of Facebook. The first job of most 23 year olds barely covers the cost of rent. However, Spiegel is not like most 23 year olds. In fact, just three classes shy from his graduation, he dropped out of Stanford to pursue Snapchat, an idea supposedly started while discussing the desire to send easily erased pictures with his fraternity brothers. However, what began as a convenient way to avoid embarrassment started a revolution in the way we communicate with others.
Snapchat creates a new space to talk with others through the world of ephemeral messaging. You can send your most intimate, goofy, or artistic creations (it allows users to draw on their photos), all the while knowing whoever you send it to will only see it for a maximum of 10 seconds. Snapchat is widely popular, with over 400 million “snaps” sent each day. It is available internationally and on both Android and iOS interfaces. Most shockingly, Snapchat currently generates no revenue. There are no advertisements on the phone and the application is free to all users. So, why would Spiegel turn down such a generous offer?
- Creative control.To sell to Facebook would be to sell out. It would be giving in to the already over dominating social media giant. As soon as Spiegel hands over his ownership, he loses his ability to create something different and potentially original. Facebook recently bought Instagram for $1 billion. Since doing so, there have been the implementation of advertisements and direct messaging much to the dismay of many users. Snapchat is also a relatively new company, as it did not gain momentum until 2012. Spiegel’s product is far from its potential. In the words of Spiegel, “…it still has room to grow.” The value of Snapchat lies within its difference from other social media vehicles. It is refreshing and far from perfected. Spiegel knows it would be silly to hand it over now.
- Privacy. Social media has received much critical attention for its privacy, or lack thereof. In the wake of NSA fear, Snapchat offers the ultimate privacy to its users. Spiegel is a millennial, part of a generation that grew up being told to watch what we put on the Internet or we’ll never get that job we’ve always wanted. Snapchat epitomizes our ability to maintain privacy in a place where discretion seems nearly impossible. While Snapchat does not store anything, Facebook notoriously collects and stores user information. For Snapchat users, the majority ages 13-25, selling would mean a large loss of privacy. It is important Snapchat remains true to its humble beginnings as a social media valued for changing the game of Internet privacy norms.
- Because it’s fun. Although Spiegel might be driving a nicer car, he is less different from others his age than we’d like to think. He is living the dream of most young adults. He wakes up every morning and walks over to his office located right on Venice Beach. He is the CEO of a company that recently received another $50 million dollars in investments. He makes all the rules and does not have to answer to a boss, such as Facebook. Many of his co-workers are fellow Stanford friends and he can come in to work as late as he’d like. Plus, he is doing something he loves to do. Any 23-year old would be reluctant to give up a gig as ideal as the one he’s got going on.
Besides, for Speigel the amount Facebook had to offer likely did not influence his decision. As Larry Page, CEO of Google, said, “If we were motivated by money, we would have sold the company a long time ago and ended up on the beach.” Speigel is only 23. He is not ready to retire and his company’s potential does not hold monetary value. Snapchat is his baby, his prodigy. To abandon it to a large sum of money does not match his ambition. Why sell to Facebook, when his creation could be the next Facebook. He wants to change the way in which people share personal information, even more than he already has.
Erica Grubman is an Integrated Market Associate at Otherwise Incorporated.
Illustration Credit: Erica Grubman, Integrated Market Associate at Otherwise Incorporated.