If Silicon Valley had a bad boy icon, it would be Evan Spiegel. The CEO and co-founder of Snapchat shot to the limelight when the app became wildly popular, with 100 million daily users and reportedly 6 billion video views per day.

The photo-sharing mobile app exploded in popularity after pioneering the idea of self-deleting pictures. In the process, it made Evan Spiegel a multi-billionaire who rejected a takeover bid from Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg.


Here are 10 success lessons from Evan Spiegel – “Snapchat Founder and Billionaire” for entrepreneurs,

1. Age doesn’t really matter

Thinking back to everything that he’s accomplished, it’s tough to remember that Spiegel was born in 1990. That means that the first prototype of Snapchat launched when he was merely 21, and Snapchat became wildly successful just a year later. He joined the Forbes 400 at age 25, coming in at No. 327, and became the world’s youngest billionaire.

2. When mistakes are uncovered, apologise for them

Spiegel mentioned, “You are going to make a lot of mistakes. I’ve already made a ton of them — some of them very publicly — and it will feel terrible, but it will be okay. Just apologize as quickly as you can and pray for forgiveness.” You can’t undo mistakes you’ve made, but you can always apologise and hope for the best.

3. Mistakes can become the best opportunities — learn to spot them

In starting a company, it’s important to recognise when opportunities arise. The inspiration behind Snapchat, began with a mistake, albeit one made by co-founder Reggie Brown: he’d stepped into Spiegel’s room to discuss a photo he wished he didn’t send to someone. The exact phrasing of what went down that night has been highly debated in legal disputes surrounding the ownership of Snapchat. Brown said something along the lines of “I wish there was an app to send disappearing photos.” Spiegel immediately became animated and called it a “million dollar idea”. He wasn’t wrong.

4. Avoid standard terms

Several times during business deals and negotiation, Evan had experienced stuff which was so complicated that it cannot be put into simple English words. When Evan asked about why putting it in here if no one understands it, he was replied that it’s standard. According to Evan, standard is really a code for “I have no idea what I am talking about.” Therefore, Evan and his team have learned to not to sign up deals with businesses offering standard terms.

5. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again

As an entrepreneur, you can’t be deterred by the idea of failure. Spiegel’s first business came in the form of Future Freshman in 2010. The site, which was designed to help high schoolers deal with the stressful college admissions process, never took off. His next venture was the idea of “disappearing photos”, but the first version of the app was far from the hit that Snapchat is now. But the rebranding worked: in December 2011, Snapchat had 2,241 users. In January 2012, it had 20,000.

6. It’s okay to say no to money

When there’s a great idea and a well-performing app, it attracts the attention of many investors. One such investor was Facebook, who offered US$3 billion in cash to acquire Snapchat. Despite the large and very attractive number, Spiegel turned down the money, opting to grow the company on his own terms.

7. Life isn’t fair — it’s about working the system

Born to two successful attorneys, Spiegel is used to living a life of luxury. In a Forbes article, it was revealed that he often had fights with his father about his extravagant spending habits, once guilt-tripping him into buying him a new BMW.

And if you’re in a position of privilege, you should own up to it. Spiegel has not been shy to admit that he’s been extremely lucky in his career, and attributes it to working the system.

8. Ask yourself. Do you want to work for someone else?

Mr. Augie Fablo asked Evan, “When did you know that you wanted to start a company? What drove you to have that purpose?” Evan Spiegel replied, “A lot of it is not wanting to work for anyone else. My dad had to cancel vacations and he got called from work. I used to thought that when I grow-up, I want to be the guy on the phone.”

If you do not like to work for others or work in your own way then it is a clear sign that you probably are built for becoming an entrepreneur.

9. Dare to be different

Spiegel mentioned he too had participated in his class’ graduation ceremony, despite not actually receiving his degree. He even wore the cap and gown and walked onto the stage. And he did so because he wanted to conform, remarking “often times we do all sorts of silly things to avoid being different but the things that makes us happen are the times we listen to our soul and allow ourselves to be pulled in a different direction.”

10. It’s not about the degree, it’s about the experience

While Spiegel didn’t complete his degree, he’s no slacker. He’s taken several classes that helped bolster his skills in product design, including a class at the Arts Center College of Design in Pasadena, and two continuing-education courses at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. In Stanford, he majored in product design. His co-founders, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown, were also fellow fraternity brothers, and it was in his dorm that Brown complained to Spiegel about a photograph he regretted sending.

About Author

Biplab Ghosh

Biplab lives his life around technology and is particularly keen to explore the intersection of technology and human behaviour. Always looking for new ideas, and ways that can make things simpler. He is a geek with the flair for travel and has great passion for music and theatres.

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