A brief history of Snapchat

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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 allegedly referred to it 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

Pictaboo 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

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 partner’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

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.


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.


May 2016

A leaked deck reveals revenues, user numbers and a $1.8 billion Series F raise.


June 2016

Snapchat secretly acquires Seene, a computer vision startup that lets mobile users make 3D selfies.


June 2016

Snapchat uncovers Discover. Snapchat combines the best of social networks, magazines, and television in a redesign of its omni-entertainment app.


July 2016

A new feature called Memories is introduced. You can now post old content to your Snapchat Story, kind of like a searchable replacement for your camera roll. Memories fundamentally shifts Snapchat to encompass the past rather than only being about the present.


September 2016

Oh Snap…Snapchat rebrands to Snap Inc. Snapchat rebrands and reveals its Spectacles, 10 second video glasses that are totally real and cost $130.


September 2016

Snapchat might be the only company cool enough to pull off the whole ‘camera on your face’ thing.


January 2017

The app has long been criticized for being too hard to navigate. Snapchat’s major redesign, which introduces a universal search bar to the top of the app, among other features launches on iOS. With the redesign, Snapchat aims to make it easier to find friends, groups, Discover publishers and Stories.


January 2017

Snap, the now-parent company of Snapchat, is working on an IPO for as early as March that could value the company at $25 billion or higher.


Snap values itself at nearly $24B with its IPO pricing

Snap has given a final price for its IPO, setting the company’s valuation at nearly $24 billion with a price of $17 per share, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.


Snapchat soars again on second day of trading, tumbles 11% on day four

Stock closed at $24.48, a 44% gain from the IPO price of $17. It went up a bit further on the second day. But Snap’s two first days on the market were followed by two terrible ones. Shares quickly tumbled to beneath $22, a more than 11 percent drop in morning trading on day 4. 


Snapchat introduces World Lenses – live filters for just about anything

Snapchat adds a new way to use its app that brings its popular filters beyond faces. The new ‘World Lenses’ add augmented reality elements to any scene you can capture with your camera, placing 3D objects you can actually walk around with your smartphone’s camera, which is actually a lot closer to what we used to mean when we said “augmented reality” in its earlier days.


Snapchat launches self-serve ad manager

Snap Inc. wants the ad dollars of smaller businesses, not just giant brands. So it launched its new self-serve ad manager for buying video Snap Ads. There’s also the new Snapchat Mobile Dashboard for tracking campaigns from your phone, and the Business Manager site for configuring the roles and permissions of team members.


Snapchat hits a disappointing 166M daily users, growing only slightly faster

Snap’s growth rate increased just a little in Q1 2017 — a bad start to its first quarterly earnings report since going public. Snap hit 166 million daily active users at a growth rate of 5 percent, compared to the 158 million DAUs it had in Q4 when it hit a 3.2 percent growth rate. Snap’s year-over-year growth rate continued to slip, falling to 36 percent year-over-year from 48 percent in Q4.

Snapchat also wouldn’t say exactly how many Spectacles its sold, but it did admit that the “Other revenue” category that’s mostly from Spectacles brought in around $4.5 million in revenue in Q4 2016, and over $8.3 million in revenue in Q1 2017.


Snap acquires Placed to prove geofilters drive store visits

Snap confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s acquired location-based analytics and ad measurement startup Placed for an undisclosed sum.

Placed will help Snap scale its measurement systems like Snap To Store so advertisers can chart how online Snapchat ads translate into offline return on investment.


Snapchat launches location-sharing feature Snap Map

Snapchat’s next big feature wants to get you to meet up with friends in real life rather than just watching each other’s lives on your phones. Snap Map lets you share your current location, which appears to friends on a map and updates when you open Snapchat.


Snapchat acquires Zenly and AR location intellectual property of startup Drop

Snapchat’s newest feature, Snap Map, is based on its latest acquisition, social mapping startup Zenly. TechCrunch learned that Snapchat has bought Zenly for between $250 million and $350 million in mostly cash and some stock in a deal that closed in late May. Snapchat will keep Zenly running independently, similar to how Facebook lets Instagram run independently.

Augmented reality location startup Drop also told TechCrunch that Snap Inc. acquired its intellectual property in 2015, including its “Location-based messaging” patent.


Snap falls below its IPO price for the first time

Oh Snap.

On July 10, 2017, the Snapchat parent had a difficult day on the stock market, closing at $16.99. It’s officially fallen below its $17 IPO price for the first time.


Snap sinks as Q2 growth and revenue fall short

Snap has an awful Q2 earnings report… but at least its dancing AR hot dog was viewed 1.5 billion times. To prove their confidence, co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy have agreed not to sell any shares this year.


Maybe Spectacles aren't that cool…

Snap’s Spectacles sunglasses may prove to be more of a fad than a must-have device. Snap revealed during its call following weak Q2 earnings that it generated $5.4 million in “Other” revenue, which would equate to around 41,500 pairs of its Spectacles camera sunglasses at a $130 price point. That’s compared to $8.3 million in Other revenue in Q1, or fewer than 64,000 pairs, meaning Spectacles sales have declined roughly 35 percent.


Snapchat share price craters on weak revenue and user growth in Q3 2017

Snap’s losing streak continues in it’s Q3 2017 earnings report that saw it miss financial expectations and add just 4.5 million users. Snap earned $207.9 million in revenue with a loss of $0.14 per share, compared to expectations of a $237 million in revenue and a loss of $0.15 EPS. The 178 million total daily users equates to a 2.9 percent quarter-over-quarter user growth rate, its lowest ever, and much slower than the 4.2 percent in Q2 and 5 percent in Q1. Analysts had expected 180 million users.


Snapchat fell out of the iOS top 10 for first time this year in Q3

Snapchat’s mobile app fell out of the top 10 for the first time in 2017 during Q3, according to a report from Sensor Tower. The app, which had been ranked at #8 during Q2 2017 dropped to #18 on iOS during the quarter, but remained ranked at #2 on Google Play. Combined, that gave the app an overall ranking of #5 for the quarter, the report noted.


Snapchat starts algorithm-personalized redesign splitting social and media

By putting best friends first and dividing them from professional publishers, Snapchat hopes to conquer Instagram and revive its own growth with a big redesign. And it looks great. Snapchat is finally personalizing, highlighting the most relevant content so it’s easier to consume.