Kylie Jenner has recently caused an uproar across social media due to Forbes’ new announcement of youngest self-made billionaires. It is easy to debate whether a celebrity is “self-made”, however a number of young entrepreneurs have made it with little fanfare. While Kylie may be set to become one of America’s youngest billionaires, Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snap, is currently the youngest self-made billionaire according to Forbes.
Evan Spiegel is the co-founder and CEO of Snap, Inc. Spiegel was like any other college student. He was balancing his social life, fraternity responsibilities, and school work in Stanford University’s product-design program while trying to develop his own business. Spiegel and his co-founder Bobby Murphy lived across the hall from one another and were also in the same fraternity. The two began working together and started creating new ideas for apps.
The Spiegel and Murphy duo originally developed ideas for an app called “Future Freshman.” The purpose of this app was to help incoming college freshman apply for college. Unfortunately, this idea never really worked. However, this effort began to provide other ideas. Concerns about personal privacy and one’s “digital footprint” was becoming very prevalent. Spiegel wanted an app that kept user’s information brief and non-permanent. Thus, Snapchat was created.
After the launch of Snapchat, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, reached out to Spiegel. Zuckerberg’s message to Spiegel was a friendly request to meet. Spiegel replied, “I would be happy to meet… if you come to me.” The two young entrepreneurs sat down and discussed Snapchat and Zuckerberg’s new app, Poke. Poke was described as an app that sent disappearing pictures to friends. Sound familiar? Spiegel thought so, too. If you are thinking this conversation was as friendly as the email, you are wrong. According to Spiegel, Zuckerberg basically said, “We’re going to crush you.”
After this encounter, Spiegel had bought his team Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for this not-so-friendly competition with Poke. While Poke was the number one app for iPhone for three days, Snapchat pulled ahead on Christmas day in 2012. After Zuckerberg’s Poke spiraled downward, he offered to buy Snapchat for three billion dollars. Spiegel turned down the offer.
Some people believe Spiegel’s decision to turn down Zuckerberg’s offer was foolish. Since his rejection of the offer, Spiegel has become the youngest public company CEO, the youngest self-made billionaire, and has Snapchat valued at approximately seven times the amount Zuckerberg offered him.
So, what’s the lesson for our business and technology students, alumni and blog readers? I personally think the greatest take away from Spiegel’s story is to pursue what you love. It does not matter about the money or the prestige. What matters is that you love what you do.
“There are very few people in the world who get to build a business. I think trading that for some short-term gain isn’t very interesting.” -Evan Spiegel