Snapchat picture looks good, author contends at pages talk

Billy Gallagher discusses his book “How to Turn Down A Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story” at Pages bookstore. Photo by Micah Worner


by Micah and Elka Worner

If you’re over 25, you probably don’t understand the allure of Snapchat, the wildly popular disappearing photo app used by teens.

Wildly popular until Kylie Jenner, one of Snapchat’s most influential users, posted a tweet last week that caused the Venice-based company to lose $1.3 billion in market value.

The subject of her tweet? Her disdain for the new Snapchat update: “Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me…ugh this is so sad.”

Snap shares dropped by almost 8 percent after she posted her tweet.

She wasn’t alone in her criticism. About 1.2 million users signed an online petition asking the company to remove the new update.

“Snap’s done a really good job of constantly changing the product,” said Billy Gallagher, author of “How to Turn Down A Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story.”

“Even though users are complaining a ton about this…they’re probably going to change it in six months,” he said at a book reading at Pages last Thursday night.

Gallagher first interviewed Snap’s founder and CEO Evan Spiegel while both were undergraduates at Stanford and continued to follow the social media start-up until it went public.

The author said he was attracted to the narrative because “it had this ‘Social Network’-esque drama where they kick the co-founder out.”

Spiegel, described as a “flashy, big personality guy,”  first raised venture capital in 2012 while still a senior at Stanford.

“Evan’s pitch to early investors was that if Instagram is the 1 percent of the pettiest photographs you can have, then Snapchat wants to be the other 99 percent,” the author said. “It’s communicating through photos.”

The idea caught on and other Silicon Valley social media companies took notice. Spiegel and his partner Bobby Murphy walked away from a $3 billion offer from Facebook, which may have seemed foolish, but turned out to be the right decision. The publicly traded company now has a market capitalization of $34 billion, on par with Marriott and Target.

Spiegel not only rejected buyout offers from the Silicon Valley, he also rejected the group-think mentality of the tech mecca and deliberately moved the company to Southern California, Gallagher said. (Spiegel grew up in Pacific Palisades).

He started out with 10 employees and had a tough time recruiting executives from the Silicon Valley into an area now known as Silicon Beach.  

In the beginning, they were wondering whether they were going to turn Snapchat into “an actual company” or “end up being 20 kids down here in LA trying to fight against Facebook,” Gallagher said.

The rivalry between Spiegel and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg continues, with Facebook copying some of Snapchat’s features.

Gallagher is convinced the company will continue to grow and innovate, even if older generations don’t quite get it.

“Older people who arrived to Facebook in its more constant state

don’t understand the appeal of Snapchat,” Gallagher wrote in the

prologue of his book.

“Indeed, it was easier for me to write this book than teach my mom

how to use Snapchat.”

(How To Turn Down A Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story, St. Martin’s Press)



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