The 2016 CRM Market Influential Leaders: Evan Spiegel, Cofounder and CEO, Snapchat

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Evan Spiegel’s story of founding image and multimedia messaging mobile application Snapchat is surely one that aspiring entrepreneurs are familiar with. Spiegel started Snapchat under the name “Picaboo”—a reference to the disappearing pictures users send each other through the app—while studying product design at Stanford University, eventually launching the project as an iOS-only app in July 2011. He relaunched the app under the name Snapchat in September of that year. Today, Snapchat has 100 million daily active users, with 9,000 snaps sent per second.

Whereas content on traditional social media platforms such as Facebook is permanent, the appeal of Snapchat is that messages are fleeting—once opened, the media users send lasts only seconds. This feature empowers users in a digital world where content intended to be private can haunt digital profiles indefinitely. Snapchat also emphasizes user-created content. Instead of seeing the traditional newsfeed structure employed by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, users are greeted by their camera when they open the app, encouraging them to create their own content.

Spiegel has continued to innovate with Snapchat since its launch. In December 2012, video capability was introduced on the platform, allowing users to record videos of up to 10 seconds by holding down the photo button (as with the photos users send, videos also disappear after they are viewed). In October 2013, the “My Story” feature was added to the platform, enabling users to compile their snaps into chronological storylines and share them with their friend lists. In May 2014, video chat communication was added, as well as a direct messaging system that enables users to send disappearing text messages.

One of the keynote speakers at this year’s NetSuite SuiteWorld conference was Imran Khan, chief strategy officer of Snapchat. Khan discussed the philosophy behind Snapchat’s disappearing photos and videos, saying that “if you think about [it], the vast majority of conversation is ephemeral in nature…. The Internet is supposed to make people’s lives better, but what happened is that when we moved into the digital world, we found that everything we do, everything we said, gets recorded and gets saved.… People change, and what Snapchat does is it gives people…the choice [to save a picture or not].” 

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