Snap Inc says cameras define smartphones in IPO filing’s tiny letter to investors

Evan Spiegel’s letter to investors would fit in a 10 second snap. The CEO’s penchant for minimalist design seems to have influenced the opening statement in today’s Snap Inc S-1 filing to go public. It’s just a 1/16th the length of Mark Zuckerberg’s letter when Facebook went public. But it was enough for him to declare the camera as the “starting point” for the smartphone, which is why it’s also the home screen of Snapchat.

Here’s the full letter:


Snap Inc. is a camera company.

We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way that people live and communicate. Our products empower people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together.

In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones. This is because images created by smartphone cameras contain more context and richer information than other forms of input like text entered on a keyboard. This means that we are willing to take risks in an attempt to create innovative and different camera products that are better able to reflect and improve our life experiences.


The filing also included this cute three-part timeline of the history of Snapchat

History Of Snapchat early years History of Snapchat adolescence History Of Snapchat Pre-IPO

Spiegel previously tried to communicate what Snapchat is in a video from 2015. He explained that people use Snapchat to talk through photos and videos, not text, and contrasted its ephemeral sharing with services like Facebook and its Timeline that define you identity by your past. “Accumulation was really about this idea that identity is everything I’ve ever doneā€¦Instant Expression says my identity is who I am right now. It says that I’m the result of everything I’ve ever done, but I’m not really the accumulation of all that.”

Day later, when asked at Code Conference what Snapchat was, he broke it down as “camera, communications, and content”, saying “we call it entertainment”

Back in 2013, he defined the difference between Snapchat and Instagram saying “I think Snapchat’s a lot more about sharing in the moment, and Instagram’s about saving really special experiences and making sure they look great. So you know, I don’t think they’re products that are directly competitive. I think if anything they complement each other.” But three years later, Instagram took that feedback and used it to broaden its scope into ‘sharing in the moment’ by copying Snapchat Stories and turning them into direct competitors.

Now Facebook is trying to copy all of Snapchat’s best features across Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and its main app. But none make the camera the starting point the way Snapchat does. The question will be whether Snap Inc can retain the public perception that it brings something fundamentally different to social media, and the whole concept of the camera.