A Brief History Of Snapchat

Our story begins at Stanford University, where the idea for an ephemeral photo sharing app is brought to life by three founders.

Summer, 1990

It all started when Evan Spiegel was born, on June 4 in 1990. He was a happy Southern California baby. (While this gif is of a happy Southern California baby, it is not actually Evan.)

Fall, 2008

Skip forward almost two decades, and you’ll find our young protagonist at Stanford University, the playground for Silicon Valley’s brightest stars.


This is where Evan met Reggie Brown, during his freshman year. The two of them joined Kappa Sig together…

Which is where they met Bobby Murphy, Snapchat co-founder and the programmer behind the app. But this was all before Snapchat existed.


By 2009, Spiegel and Murphy were already testing out their entrepreneurial skills, launching Future Freshman LLC.


It never really picked up speed.

Spring, 2011

Eventually, April 2011 rolled around. Spiegel and Brown were about to complete their junior year at Stanford and Murphy had already graduated. Reggie had this idea…

Spring, 2011

“I wish these photos I am sending this girl would disappear,” said Brown. Soon after, Spiegel had heard about the idea and was jazzed about it.

Spring, 2011

Spiegel alleged referred to is as a “million dollar idea.” More like $15 billion, AMIRITE?

Summer, 2011

And so the idea for Snapchat was born. But back then they were calling it Pictaboo. Murphy, Spiegel, and Brown were all working on it.

Summer, 2011

They spent all summer working on the app. Evan drew the ghost logo that is still used today. Spiegel was CEO, Murphy was CTO, and Reggie Brown was CMO.

July, 2011

Picaboo launched in July of 2011. By the end of the summer, it only had 127 users.

Fall, 2011

In August 2011, drama got the best of our young founders. After a summer of working on the app together, Brown and Spiegel got in a fight over the order of the names as they appear on the technology patent, as well as the equity splits.

Fall, 2011

Brown wanted 30 percent equity. Spiegel and Murphy disagreed. They booted him from the company, locking all the emails and back-end systems.

Fall, 2011

Spiegel and Murphy changed the name to Snapchat, and started telling their friends.

Fall, 2011

But the school season started back up, and as user numbers approached 1,000, the team noticed a spike in activity from 9am to 3pm.

Fall, 2011

They’d hit the jackpot. High school kids were flocking to the app after learning the hard way that what goes on the internet, stays on the internet.

Spring, 2012

By April of 2012, the company had grown to 100,000 users.

Spring, 2012

But there was one relatively large caveat: server bills were growing expensive.

April, 2012

Jeremy Liew, from Lightspeed Ventures, stepped in to help after hearing about the app’s popularity from his parter’s (Barry Eggers) daughter.

April, 2012

Lightspeed Venture Partners invested a $485,000 seed round on a $4.25 million valuation.

April, 2012

Weeks before graduating, Evan Spiegel walked out of class and dropped out of Stanford as soon as the money appeared in his bank account.

May, 2012

And then Nick Bilton, from the NYT, heard about the app. He painted it as a sexting tool.

Winter, 2012

By December of that year, Snapchat had launched on Android and introduced video snaps.

December, 2012

Days before Christmas, Facebook launched Poke, what can only be described as a desperate Snapchat clone. Within days, Snapchat had gotten even more publicity and Poke had been entirely forgotten.

December, 2012

“It was like, ‘Merry Christmas, Snapchat!’ ” said Spiegel.

Spring, 2013

By February of 2013, Snapchat was seeing over 60 million snaps sent per day. So naturally, they raised a $13.5 million Series A from Benchmark.

February, 2013

Days later, Reggie Brown reappeared, filing a lawsuit against the company for breach of a joint venture, etc.

May, 2013

Despite the lawsuit, the team pressed on. The app had reached 150 million snaps per day by May, with big brands taking an interest in the platform.

June, 2013

Last summer, almost a year ago, Snapchat raised an $80 million Series B from IVP at a reported valuation of $800 million. Both Evan and Bobby took home $10 million for themselves.

Summer, 2013

Things couldn’t have been going better for Snapchat, except for that pesky lawsuit.

July, 2013

Documents and SMS conversations slowly leaked out as the trial progressed, including a text conversation where Evan admitted that Reggie came up with the idea for disappearing messages.

Fall, 2013

In October, they launched Snapchat Stories, which is ephemerality’s take on a timeline.

November, 2013

It was around this time that Zuck was tired of fighting Snapchat with silly clone apps.

November, 2013

The Facebook CEO reportedly offered Evan Spiegel $3 billion for Snapchat, an app that had yet to monetize.

November, 2013

Obviously, Snapchat refused the offer.

November, 2013

But the lawsuit was still underway, and leaked deposition videos seemed to confirm that Reggie came up with the idea for Snapchat, not the two co-founders.

December, 2013

But it’s hard to care about leaked videos when you’re in the middle of fundraising. Late in 2013, Snapchat received a $50 million Series C round from Cotue Management, with a reported valuation of more than $2 billion.

December, 2013

With the stakes high and competition heating up, Snapchat decided to take on Instagram, who had just launched Instagram Direct.

December, 2013

In response, Snapchat added filters, timestamps, temperature and speed overlays, as well as the ability to REPLAY SNAPS!

December, 2013

Perhaps proving that Snapchat had finally “made it,” the app suffered a malicious attack that exposed usernames and phone numbers of over 4.6 million users.


And it wasn’t until a year later that the company settled with the FTC after being dishonest with its users about privacy. Snapchat entered into a consent decree with the FTC to address concerns over the company’s privacy policy, app description, and in-app notifications.

January, 2014

At first, the company didn’t see any need to apologize.

January, 2014

Until, perhaps for the first time, the internet rebelled against the company. Shockingly enough, people care quite a bit about their personal data.

May, 2014

The lawsuit is in a lull, with rumors circulating that the two parties may settle, or that the case may be moved to a Federal Court, where Snapchat has greater chances of winning.

May, 2014

Snapchat added text conversations and video chat to the app.

May 2014

Many have likened Evan Spiegel and Snapchat to a young Mark Zuckerberg and The Facebook.

May 2014

But only time, and a monetization strategy, can prove that true or false.

May, 2014

A few dozen emails, written by 18-year-old Evan Spiegel, are leaked. They describe mostly disgusting things, such as peeing on women, getting “leid”, and using drugs.

June 2014

Snapchat launches Our Story, a feature that lets you add Snaps to a single, event-based Story. The idea is that whenever you’re at a big event, an option to add to that event’s Story will appear just below the option to add it to your own Story. The entire group of attendees, regardless of friendship within the app, can post to a single stream of an event.

June 2014

Snapchat snags Facebook’s Mike Randall to be monetization VP.

Mike Randall (left) with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and VP of Advertising David Fischer. Photo Credit: Chris Barbour

July 2015

Snapchat introduces geofilters, or quick image tags that show your location. Do we smell monetization?

July 2014

Snapchat is now valued at $10 billion. The company’s rebuff of Facebook’s $3 billion offer doesn’t sound so silly anymore.

August 2014

According to comScore, Snapchat is now the third most popular social app among millennials.

September 2014

After more than a year of legal woes, Snapchat has finally settled its lawsuit with Reggie Brown.

November 2014

Through a deal with Square Cash, Snapchat adds in the ability to  send and receive money from friends.

December 2014

Snapchat buys a QR scanning and iBeacon startup called Scan.me for $14 million, and acquires Vergence Labs, makers of an eyeglass video camera

January 2015

Snapchat launches Discover, an always-on, daily refreshed channel guide serving up disappearing content alongside brand advertisements. Media partners include National Geographic, Vice, Yahoo News, People, Daily Mail, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, CNN, Food Network, and ESPN.

January 2015

Alongside Discover, Snapchat launches a new feature called Snaptags that creates a unique QR code for every Snapchat user. When someone points their Snapchat camera at a Snaptag, the app adds the corresponding person as a friend. Now we know what that QR acquisition was for.

February 2015

Snapchat partners with three non-profits to launch a “Safety Center” for its users. Safety Center is primarily targeted at parents and teachers who know little about the service, but there is also information for users and community.

March 2015

Snapchat seeks to raise up to $500 million in a new round that includes Alibaba and Saudi Arabian investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Thus far, Snapchat has raised $648 million from investors.

April 2015

Snapchat replaces Best Friends with friend emojis that only you can see (because it was always weird that Snapchat exposed who you snapped the most with), and adds a low light camera for when you want to snap in darker lighting.

June 2015

Snapchat may have finally found a way to monetize that its users will actually like. The company is now extending its custom geofilters to businesses as a monetization strategy.

McDonald’s became the first company to pay Snapchat to run a geofilter advertising campaign. Now, McDonald’s branded geofilters will be available for users to use at any of the over 14,000 McDonald’s stores in the U.S.

September 2015

Snapchat acquires facial recognition app Looksery to power its animated selfie lenses. Everyone on Snapchat barfs rainbows for days!

October 2015

Apparently, Snapchat is having major second thoughts about creating original content. Despite flashy Fox hire Marcus Wiley just five months prior, the team of around 15 that ran what was called the “Snapchat Channel” is let go.