Tech world darling: Snapchat’s Spiegel takes the stock market by storm
Life is good for Evan Spiegel.
His company, Snap Inc., went public on Thursday at a US$33 billion valuation. And with a net worth of at least US$5 billion, 26-year-old Spiegel is one of the youngest billionaires in the world.
He lives a charmed life and he knows it.
“I am a young, white, educated male,” the Snapchat creator once said at a Stanford business conference. “I got really, really lucky. And life isn’t fair.”
Spiegel grew up in the Pacific Palisades, a ritzy Los Angeles enclave just east of Malibu. He is the older son of two Ivy League-educated lawyers. His parents divorced when he was in high school.
When Spiegel turned 16 and got his driver’s license, he was given a Cadillac Escalade, which he parked in the gated Southern California Edison car park next to his school. Spiegel’s father represented Edison during the energy crisis.
Spiegel spent his early years at an ultra-exclusive school called Crossroads in Santa Monica, which costs tens of thousands per academic year. Other notable alumni include Tinder cofounder Sean Rad, Kate Hudson, Jonah Hill, Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Around the time that he landed a marketing internship with Red Bull, Spiegel decided that he wanted a more fuel-efficient car to drive around the city in. In a letter from 2008, Spiegel asked his parents to lease him a BMW 550i, which retails for about $75,000. “Cars bring me sheer joy”, he wrote. “I would really appreciate you validating me and all of my hard work by leasing the BMW.”
The Spiegels were members of a number of exclusive clubs, including the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica and the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. They often went on trips to Europe, employed a full-time housekeeper, and even went snowboarding by helicopter in Canada. “We live in a bubble”, Evan wrote in the letter asking for the BMW.
Spiegel went on to study product design at Stanford (his father’s alma mater), where he met future Snapchat cofounders Reggie Brown and Bobby Murphy.
“We weren’t cool,” Murphy later told Forbes, “so we tried to build things to be cool.”
While at Stanford, a friend of the family let Spiegel sit in on a graduate-level class on entrepreneurship and venture capital. In that class he heard talks from tech luminaries like Google CEO Eric Schmidt and YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley.
Spiegel befriended Intuit founder Scott Cook after he gave a talk at one class. Cook ended up letting Spiegel work on a product Intuit planned to release in India while he worked on his undergrad.
Spiegel dropped out of Stanford just a few credits short of graduation to work on Snapchat full time. The team developed the bulk of the disappearing messages app, which was first called Picaboo, in 2012 while headquartered at Spiegel’s dad’s house in the Palisades.
Though Snapchat eventually moved to offices on the Venice boardwalk, Spiegel lived at his dad’s house for years, in part because “the rent is cheap”.
Reggie Brown filed a lawsuit against Spiegel and Murphy in 2013 after he was forced out of the company and not given equity. The lawsuit was eventually settled, and Snapchat paid Brown US$157.5 million to disappear.
Spiegel moved out of his dad’s house in November 2014 and bought his own three-bedroom house in Brentwood for US$3.3 million.
It wasn’t long before would-be acquirers came knocking on Spiegel’s door to buy Snapchat. He famously rebuffed a US$3 billion offer from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2013.
Shortly after Spiegel turned down the offer from Zuckerberg, Facebook tried to clone Snapchat with a failed app called Poke.
As Snapchat’s user base and valuation continued to swell, Spiegel quickly became a bona fide celebrity in the worlds of tech and media.
In 2014, Spiegel’s startup loaned he and cofounder Bobby Murphy US$5 million each.
After Snapchat completed a big funding round in June 2015, Spiegel bought himself a Ferrari.
Spiegel was romantically linked with pop superstar Taylor Swift for a brief time. The two reportedly met in December 2013 at a New Year’s Eve party.
Spiegel has been fascinated with the music industry for years, and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton is Snap’s board chairman. Spiegel was reportedly interested in buying Big Machine, the record label that represents Swift, though the deal never went through.
Spiegel started dating supermodel Miranda Kerr during the summer of 2015. They first met at a 2014 dinner for Louis Vuitton.
In May 2016, the couple purchased a 666-square-metre house that had been owned by Harrison Ford for US$12 million.
Things moved quickly after that: the power couple announced that they were engaged in July 2016.
Spiegel cares about fashion more than most tech CEOs. He made headlines in October 2015 for appearing on the cover of Vogue Italy.
He’s a licensed helicopter pilot who also enjoys flower arranging. His signature shirt is a James Perse white v-neck, which retails for US$60.
Spiegel highly values secrecy in his business dealings as well as his personal life. Snap employees often don’t know about products the company is working on until they’re announced publicly.
He often moves across the company’s network of Venice Beach outposts in a black car flanked by his security detail. His security cost US$890,399 in 2016.
In February 2016, Snapchat loaned Spiegel US$15 million. Snapchat raised US$175 million the following month at a US$16 billion valuation, and Spiegel repaid his outstanding loans in full later that year.
In September 2016, Spiegel renamed Snapchat to Snap Inc. and called it a “camera company”. He also unveiled camera-equipped sunglasses called Spectacles.
The 26-year-old has been named the youngest self-made billionaire in the world by Forbes for the past two years. He has an estimated net worth of about US$5.6 billion based on Snap’s public offering.
Snap went public on Thursday 2 March at a roughly US$33 billion valuation. Spiegel instantly added about US$1.6 billion to his net worth based on Snap’s 44% jump in share price.
He earned a US$503,205 salary in 2016, plus a US$1 million bonus. His base salary has been reduced to US$1 now that Snap has gone public, but his ownership of the company makes his worth at least US$5 billion on paper.
Going forward, Spiegel’s mission at Snap is to “reinvent the camera.” He’s positioned his company as the anti-Facebook for communicating with only your closest friends, and he recently told the LA Times that he wants to “inspire creation”.
(Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.