Snapchat - If you don't know what it is by now, it probably won't matter for long
Snapchat was born back in 2011 at Stanford University. It was the product of trio Evan Spiegal, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown. All three keen on developing software and sharing their expertise with the world. So much so that their initial entrepreneurial endeavour was a platform called Future Freshman, although it never really took off.
By the time 2011 rolled around, Reggie grew frustrated a problem common amongst students "I wish these photos I'm sending to this girl would disappear" - At this point, Spiegal had the idea that would go on to become Snapchat.
But, before it was called Snapchat, it was registered by the trio as 'Pictaboo' ...which is probably where the Ghost icon comes from.
It launched in July 2011 and by the end of the following month it had around 130 users on the platform. As a result of picking up traction, disputes were raised regarding namesakes for the App and equity splits, ultimately this ended with Brown leaving the company and Spiegel and Murphy rebranding the App as Snapchat and launching it at full-pace. The App was being shared amongst high schools and colleges within the US. Within a year, there were over 100,000 Users on the App.
At this point, it became pretty expensive to pay for server hosting, so Spiegal and Murphy turned to look for investment. Jeremy Liew from Lightspeed Venture stepped up after hearing about the App from his friend's daughter. Lightspeed invested a $485,000 seed round on a $4.25 million valuation. This led to Spiegel dropping out of college (like most successful tech start-up entrepreneurs do) to focus solely on developing the App. By now, Snapchat was gaining traction and PR focus as the latest social media platform. The New York Times was branding it as a 'sexting tool' - which I guess it was for many.
Forward to early 2013, over 60 million Snaps were being sent every day across the globe. They raised another round of investment in the region of $13,500,000 and within a few months later there were over 150,000,000 Snaps being sent every day. At this point, brands were now landing on Snapchat and promoting their services/products to audiences using the newly established 'Snapchat Story' feature. Which is effectively the same as posting an Status Update on Facebook for all your friends to see, but in photo/video format on Snapchat.
By the end of 2013, Facebook had decided to stop trying to emulate Snapchat through clone apps and reportedly offered to buy Snapchat (the company behind Snapchat) for $3 Billion.
It's important at this point to remind you that Snapchat was yet to monetise.
After rejecting Zuck's $3bil offer, Snap went on to receive a further $50million investment and continued to grow. Now almost taking the fight for attention directly to Facebook by offering Users a range of Filters, Replaying Snaps, Temperature & speed overlays based on your geolocation.
Fast-forward again to Summer 2015, Snapchat launches Geofilters. Geofilters allow for communities and cities to add a sense of branding to their city so that App users can show-off where they are. Geofilters are also offered to businesses and brands that want to advertise in specific locations to an audience of people. This was the first step Snapchat took towards monetzing the App. Charging companies to feature their logo/USP's on filters within certain locations for a specific amount of time.
Now that there was a revenue stream, Snapchat's valuation went up to $10 billion.
At the beginning of 2015, Snapchat launched another new feature called 'Discover' - It's essentially a feature showcasing multiple media channel outlets that are consistently updated by the featured Media Partners. Media partners include Vice, Sky Sports, Daily Mail, ESPN, Cosmopolitan and many more.
Now things get interesting, in September 2015... Snapchat acquires a program called Looksery, it's the one that makes everyone's faces look different through a series of filters.
Around the same time, Facebook acquired a company called MSQRD. MSQRD is a like-for-like company as Looksery. They develop filters and Face Swapping software. So, this signals what Facebook's intentions for the future of their platforms are perhaps?
Snapchat then becomes a little conscious about Facebook's future intentions and they quickly rebrand to Snap Inc. (the company) with Snapchat (a product). As of now, Snap Inc is registered and recognised as 'a Camera company' - Not a tech/software company.
In early 2017, Snap Inc were ready to launch their IPO with the aim to value the company for roughly $24 billion, valuing each share at $17.
However, the IPO could be less successful than Snap Inc. hopes as a result of Facebook's recent activity launching new features across Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.
What are these features?
Well, they are the exact same features as Snapchat, just on Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook (coming soon!). Instagram stories is growing in popularity massively and is already arguably a more successful way for brands to reach their audience due to an already existing audience, ease of engagement and it's desktop and mobile user interface.
WhatsApp has introduced the 'Whats App Status' - Which again is exactly the same as Instagram stories or Snapchat stories.
Facebook, is slowly pulling apart Snapchat's USP's and displaying them across all their platforms. So where does this leave Snapchat? Probably fighting to maintain a USP and niche, hence why rebranding as a camera company.
For the short term, it's still one of the most used Apps amongst 'Gen Z' and 'Millenials' and it's probably one of the most "realest" ways to actually converse with people because there's no trace or history of messages - just like in real life! Snapchatting and using Snapchat stories is the modern day status update, it's visual and engaging - but Facebook are slowly going to take that back away from Snapchat.
Thanks for reading. Reach out to me about this on Twitter @domvc or drop me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org