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The Growth Story of Snapchat and Key Takeaways

Snapchat – the photo messaging app that allows users to take and send “disappearing” photos witnessed a rather impressive growth in 2013. The brainchild of fraternity brothers Evan Spielgel and Robert Murphy, the self-destructive photo-sending app was without doubt the breakout consumer product of 2013.

Launched out of the living room of the co-founder, Spielgel's father's apartment, Snapchat picked up slowly but steadily.  The company recently rejected Facebook's early Christmas gift of $3 billion in cash for acquisition.

Spiegel then went on to decline a $4 billion offer from the search engine giant, Google and since then the app has received generous Series A, B and C funding. 

The reason behind Snapchat's growth

Image credit: Shutter_M /

If the answer had to be single-worded, we'd say privacy. While the world is still debating whether or not privacy is the biggest right – Snapchat stepped ahead of the debate to launch its algorithm of self destructive images and gave users the freedom to be fun, to be themselves and share it with their “inner circles” without wondering what the consequences would be, if the photographs made their way to Facebook or the web.

Snapchat is liberating in its basic essence and here are three other features that rule: 

  • The app is not limited to smartphones.

  • Doesn't need a data plan – if you can find a wi-fi hotspot, you're good to go.

  • The photo and writing app lets you be creative and self-destructive images give you the freedom to share it with a closed group.

A New York Times story spoke of how the co-founders shared an iPhone version of the app with  20 of their friends in September 2011. A few weeks in, they saw multiple new users join and noticed unusual spike in activity, particularly from 8am to 3pm.

The activity was courtesy several high school goers of an Orange County high school, who heard about the app from Speigel's cousin studying in the same school. Soon the app spread to other schools in Southern California. Educational centers and skill building institutions like SQL training centers became the hotspots where teens and young adults shared the app with one another and Speigel's app went to have 30,000 users from only 3,000 a month earlier!

The key takeaways

Youth marketing is still very relevant – Don't ignore the millennials

Image credit: Dmitry Lobanov /

If Snapchat's growth could be attributed to a single reason, it would be its popularity amongst the teenaged millennials. The truth is teens and the younger millennials are in fact the primary trend setters. Other demographic groups  adopt the trends set by teens and young adults.

Snapchat revamped itself for tweens (8 to 12 years), the teens and college-going, young adults.

Implications? Teens with no personal smartphones or data plans could use the app on the family's iPad or computer and all that – without wreaking havoc on the family's data plan. And that is why Snapchat won the patronage of the youth.

#Privacy is the most important right – not everyone wishes to broadcast their escapades on Facebook

Image credit: Gunnar Pippel /

The recurring feature that appears in almost all 'reasons why Snapchat grew big' lists is its privacy. The photographs come with a limited time frame. Users can choose who they want to share the images with. They can get feedback from friends without leaving any trace.

Jake Katz from Ypulse puts it this way – Sending disappearing photographs on Snapchat is like beta testing oneself and pressure testing one's forming identity – all in real time.

#Everybody has a fun quirky side they would want to share with a few

Image credit: baranq /

And this is one of the primary reasons why Spiegel's app is rocking with a different demographic too – young finance professionals at the Wall Street. In the heavily critical finance industry where a stray drunk photograph can have serious negative career related consequences, Wall Street professionals have found the perfect app to show their “party-side” to friends via self destructive photos that leave no trace afterward. 

And it is fun. Remember how all work and no play made Jack a dull boy? How are young Wall Street professionals supposed to have a good time if that could get them fired? Snapchat allows users to send goofy selfies, context free messages, and playful messages to friends without worrying about being incriminated.

Join The Conversation

  • ChrisSyme's picture
    Jan 16 Posted 3 years ago ChrisSyme

    Good thoughts, Mark. Sometimes I wonder if millennials aren't more interested in privacy as a group, i.e. being where there are not adults, than they are in their individual privacy. Just thinkin'. 

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