To the vast majority of western youths, Snapchat needs no introduction. The last three years have witnessed its emergence as a social media titan that has changed the way people approach communicating, networking and documenting their daily lives. Its effect on popular culture, for both ordinary youths and celebrities, grows in significance with each new feature.
The business side of the Snapchat story is just as thrilling, however. Today, eighteen months after analysts were left shocked by Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s decision to turn down a $3 billion takeover bid from Facebook, the student-run tech company is valued at $20 billion by some estimates – with some predicting this valuation to grow further still.
Those who criticised the then-22-year-old Spiegel’s naivety for spurning Mark Zuckerberg’s considerable cash offer are now eating their words. Bucking the trend for countless other social media ventures (Anyone remember LiveProfile? How about PingChat?), Snapchat has proven to be far more than the flash in the pan it first threatened to be. The venture capital keeps on pouring in, as Spiegel and co. continue to develop innovative new features to the once ephemeral photo-sharing app. Snapchat’s illustrious catalogue of financial backers shows just how highly the big-name players regard the company. Investors include e-commerce giants Alibaba, who invested a staggering $200 million into the firm, and Yahoo, who weighed in with a mere $20 million. Total third-party investments to date number close to $1 billion.
The investment has led to impressive results, with the recent proliferation of localised geo-filters, enabling users to view compiled photos and videos from specific locations all around the world, proving hugely popular. The addition of the Discover feature has seen the app move into the news-sharing market for the first time. Official partners include Sky News, Daily Mail, MTV and Vice to name but a few. The advent of more diversified special features, coupled with the fool-proof original formula of impermanent photo messaging, means that active users number close to 200 million. Following in the footsteps of Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, Snapchat has been banned in China – nowadays a sort of badge of honour among tech giants.
Spiegel and co-founder Bobby Murphy have already been named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. This week, they signed an agreement for a new 47-000 square foot office complex in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, reportedly fighting off interest in the coveted property from taxi-hailing app giants Uber. It seems clear that Spiegel, once derided as a doe-eyed Stanford dropout, means serious business. This long and eventful Snapchat story shows no signs of counting down to zero just yet.