In April 2011 two Stanford University students, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, started Snapchat as a project, part of a product design class. Three years later and these 20-somethings have just turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook and are fully ensconced in the social media rat race.
Just last month Irish American Murphy (25) and Spiegel (23) were running Snapchat out of a beachfront bungalow in Venice, CA. Now the app, which allows users to share photos, videos, texts and drawings to their chosen recipients, has joined tech companies like Tumblr and Instagram - no money coming in but, multiple high level takeover offers.
The two have overnight become fashion and tech icons.Elle magazine compared their hip clothes to the clothing habits of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook who wears a perennial hoodie.
“Murphy, on the other hand, has more of a baby face to him, like one of those twenty-something actors starring in a Disney TV show. He's more adorable than Spiegel, and his style skews more American Apparel—casual. Yet he still tries, and like Spiegel, he looks good. They both do.” Elle's Natalie Matthews wrote.
The idea behind Snapchat came to Murphy and Spiegel after a friend regretted sending a photo. The images or messages sent on Snapchat are only visible on the recipient's device for 10 seconds. Initially the app came under fire as some thought might be used for sexting and cyberbullying.
The Wall Street Journal reports that sources close to the company say Spiegel, who dropped out of Stanford, is hoping for a better offer than the $3 billion offered by Facebook.
The New York Times reports that Snapchat is one of the most sought-after businesses in the tech industry with 350 million photos being shared daily.
Benchmark Capital, which previously invested in Instagram which it then sold to Facebook for $1 billion last year, placed an initial bet of $13 million as venture capital backers of Snapchat.
The confidence in Snapchat’s future success could be due in no small part to the fact that Spiegel and Murphy’s company may be the first social media company in the US built around revenue beyond advertising. Spiegel, who reportedly believes the company is worth at least $4 billion, hopes to duplicate the company's success overseas with chat apps such as WeChat. Currently 80 percent of Snapchat’s users are in the United States.
Chat apps such as WeChat and Line make money through virtual goods and games. Based in China, WeChat, operated by Tencent, allows users to subscribe to brands like Starbucks and Nike online. They then receive messages from them.
Line, a Japanese app, has $10 million a month revenue. It sells stickers that can be sent by users while they chat.
Snapchat has already carved a niche in the market and it’s hugely popular among 13 to 25-year-olds. This group is increasingly less engaged in other, established social networks such as Facebook.
Speaking to the WSJ Shervin Pishevar, an entrepreneur and co-founder of venture-capital firm Sherpa Ventures said, “There is no shame in getting an Instagram result, but there is tremendous glory in building a stand-alone multibillion-dollar company.”