By now, everyone knows that Snapchat’s 23-year-old co-founder and chief executive Evan Spiegel turned down an all cash, $3 billion offer to be acquired by Facebook (FB). And there are rumors that Google may be offering even more.
Everyone I talked to thinks the guy’s nuts. I have to admit, the thought initially crossed my mind, as well. But he’s not. Not by a long shot.
What Spiegel is, on the other hand, is a very smart guy from Pacific Palisades with savvy, wealthy, Ivy League-educated and extremely well-connected parents.
He’s also a Stanford educated Gen-Y-er who counts Intuit CEO Scott Cook as his mentor and has rubbed elbows with Google CEO Eric Schmidt and YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley.
He’s a risk-taker with a brilliant concept that he and cofounder Bobby Murphy have executed so well that the hot new messaging app is being used daily by nearly as many iPhone users as Twitter.
And perhaps most importantly, he’s an entrepreneur with top-notch VCs backing and advising his young startup, including Institutional Venture Partners, Benchmark Capital, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Never mind that Snapchat has no revenue and no business model. That’s not the priority, at least not yet. The priority is to scale and continue to evolve the product.
Never mind that social media pioneer Digg’s founder Kevin Rose turned down acquisition offers as high as $200 million and ended up selling for peanuts. Snapchat is different.
Snapchat has something unique and coveted in the social media world. A concept that nobody’s ever thought of before that seems to resonate big-time with teens and twenty-somethings: a robust messaging tool that puts the fun back into messaging.
You see, texts are permanent. They live forever, just like everything you post on Twitter, Facebook and tumblr. It can all be copied and pasted. You never know what’s going to happen to it. And that’s a real pain in the you-know-what.
Snapchat is different. It’s ephemeral. You send pictures and videos that disappear after a brief time. Granted, it can be hacked and the stuff probably sits on a server somewhere for a while, but that doesn’t seem to bother its fast-growing user base that currently shares 350 million “snaps” per day.
To me, Snapchat seems a lot more like the way we used to communicate when we were kids. You know, by talking in person or on the phone. Nothing was recorded or on video. Nothing was permanent. You could just say what you wanted without worrying about anything more than what one person might tell another.
Snapchat is just like that, except it’s a contemporary version in the form of smartphone messaging. Users can send images and videos, even stories that link them together, of how their day is going and what’s going on in their lives. And they don’t have to worry about it coming back to haunt them in the future. Users determine how long messages last before evaporating.
That’s why it’s going viral. That’s why top-tier venture capitalists are falling all over themselves to get into this deal. And that’s the main reason why the company isn’t selling out for a few billion dollars, as crazy as that sounds.
Spiegel and Murphy want to change the world. And they have the beginnings of a breakthrough product that, if they can connect the dots and keep improving on it, has a decent chance of doing that.
Not to mention that the prospect of building and growing a standalone company that might make it big someday is intoxicating for young entrepreneurs who have as much on the ball as Spiegel and Murphy seem to.
Besides, Benchmark and IVP aren’t in this to make a quick buck. They’re in it for the long haul. They believe Snapchat and its founders have what it takes to make it big on their own. And you know what? I’m sort of starting to believe it too.
Steve Tobak is a Silicon Valley-based strategy consultant and former senior executive of the technology industry.