Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel spoke about the history and future of Snapchat and the nature of entrepreneurship at the event, “Fireside Chat with Evan Spiegel,” on Wednesday evening in Taper Hall.
The event was planned by Ashish Soni, executive director of digital innovation at the Viterbi School of Engineering and founding director of the Viterbi Student Institute for Innovation.
Snapchat, an app that allows users to share photos and videos with select recipients for durations between one and 10 seconds, is possibly looking forward to opportunities in the mobile system through music, according to Spiegel.
“Music is really appealing to us right now because it has some of the same attributes that communication had when we were working on Snapchat in the beginning,” Spiegel said. “Right now on your mobile phone, music is largely non-differentiated, so you usually search for a song and you can play it. It plays from four of five different places, they roughly cost the same, but it’s also high frequency. After communication, [music is] the highest frequency behavior on your phone and so that in our view, makes it a really interesting opportunity and it’s something that we are thinking about.”
Snapchat’s newest addition, Discover, allows users to view short articles and videos from various media outlets, such as CNN, Yahoo! and Vice.
“The first [problem with feed based media is that] the fastest story wins and that means a lot of times, you make mistakes because you’re in such a hurry to get things on the internet,” Spiegel said. “We also found that headlines were driving distribution to different websites in the feed to try and attract people to click on them.”
Spiegel said the new Snapchat feature alleviates the issue of branding issues that Twitter has created. The purpose of creating Discover was to drive viewers away from simply scrolling through their Twitter without recognizing what information they were looking at.
“We also saw that brands were kind of losing their value because on Twitter, the brand wasn’t really so important and people weren’t paying attention to where they were reading their news,” Spiegel said. “So we tried to build something that tried to bring back the editorial perspective, because we believe it’s really valuable to have someone who’s smarter than us figure out what’s important, because that’s a full time job and a really hard one.”
Spiegel explained that part of Snapchat’s current success comes from users not wanting to manage online profiles.
“Social media in its first kind of incarnation was really about identity,” Spiegel said. “It’s about building the virtual Evan. ‘Here’s the things Evan likes, here’s all his friends, here’s pictures of Evan,’ and that just gets really boring at some points.”
Spiegel further commented on the issue of building an online profile. He explained that online sites that require individual profiles are inaccurate depictions of people, as we continuously change.
“Part of what makes it so tedious is that people change — they grow actually really, really quickly — so you end up with this kind of huge accumulation of things that don’t really reflect who you are at all,” Spiegel said. “Worrying about that and managing this huge identity of you on the Internet just wasn’t really fun and it was also much more fun to talk with pictures.”
According to Spiegel, the app is simple because it is solely based on snaps. Spiegel described snaps as small windows into another user’s perspective.
“[Snapchat] is really focused on feeling and that means that we care a lot about the essence of conversation,” Spiegel said. “I think what it really enabled people to do is focus on ‘what is this person trying to say to me with this picture,’ not ‘what are they trying to save’ and so by shifting the attention to ‘what is … someone trying to communicate to me,’ we focus on the feeling and not the appearance of image.”
Spiegel also discussed the nature of entrepreneurship and explained that building a strong team of workers is one of the most important parts in creating a great startup. He commented that effective startups have leaders who are able to say no to outsiders and to stay focused.
He stressed the importance of being fully aware of legality when agreeing to build a startup.
“If you hear the words ‘standard terms’ then figure out actually what the terms are, because they are probably not standard and the person explaining [them] to you probably doesn’t know how they work,” Spiegel said.
Soni said that one of the most important things Spiegel emphasized was the importance of team choice.
“Building a company is a long, hard journey and you need good people by your side to go with the ups and the downs and the fact that the team matters is huge,” Soni said.