Photo-sharing app Snapchat: From class project beginnings to IPO value of US$20 billion

Snapchat, a photo-sharing mobile app.
Snapchat, a photo-sharing mobile app. PHOTO: REUTERS

The maker of disappearing photo app Snapchat has filed publicly for an initial offering, making it the first US social-media company to do so since Twitter more than three years ago.

On Friday (Feb 3), Snap Inc filed with an initial size of US$3 billion (S$4.23 billion), a placeholder amount used to calculate fees that may change. It plans to raise as much as US$4 billion in the IPO for a market value of as much as US$25 billion, according to sources.

However, filing for an offering has also revealed Snap's losses, which were a net loss of US$515 million last year compared with a loss of US$382 million the previous year, according to the company's IPO prospectus. Its revenue for 2016 was $404 million.

What is Snapchat then, and how did it become so big and popular?


Bobby Murphy (left) and Evan Spiegel are co-founders of Snapchat. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Founder Evan Spiegel founded Snapchat at just 22 in 2012 while at Stanford University. It was initially a class project but he built it into a company with co-founders Robert Murphy and Reggie Brown who were his Kappa Sig fraternity friends at Stanford.



Snapchat soared in popularity after pioneering the idea of self-deleting pictures. It is an app that lets you send quickly disappearing messages, photos, and videos - either directly to select friends or to everyone who follows your Snapchat account.

The simple concept made Snapchat a global phenomenon, with 20 per cent of Americans using Snapchat this year, according to market research company eMarketer.

Snapchat is also a solution for youths worried about the permanency and repercussions of sharing their personal pictures on social media.

Therefore, this app has become the latest tool that people use for 'sexting', which is to share nude or semi-nude pictures of oneself with another party.

A GlobalWebIndex survey in 2015 revealed that in Singapore, 5 per cent of all Internet users and 32 per cent of teenagers use Snapchat.


Disappearing snaps

This is perhaps the one distinguishing feature of the app. The user can specify a time limit - from one to 10 seconds - for how long the photo can be viewed once opened.

Once viewed, the snap disappears. Snapchat says the images are deleted from its servers as well.

Vertical-video friendly

For people who primarily use their phones vertically, Snapchat's layout and user interface caters for the vertical usage of phones.


You can privately message your photos and videos if you want, or make them public to your followers for 24 hours by making the snap a "Story". This is different from other social media platforms where content is far more public, and keeping it private becomes an afterthought.

Goofy lens filters , captions, doodling

Snapchat is also popular for its stickers which adds dog ears or "rainbow vomit" to faces . Captions and the option of doodling on the images also add fun to the experience.


John Mayer

Username: Johnthekangaroo

The popular singer known for songs such as Gravity and Waiting on the World to Change has some amazing snaps that reveal his quirky side. Examples include trying out for "America's best hangover face" and talking to his "therapist" about making his Snapchat better.

Shaun McBride

Username: Shonduras

Shaun McBride was the first viral Snapchat star to become famous on the platform. He uses the app to draw funny and creative doodles on his photos.

As his following grew, he began taking it seriously and dedicated his time to sending out a high-quality Snapchat each day. Within a few months, his drawings caught the attention of marketing departments. He now makes "several thousand dollars" per image, he says, and counts Disney among his clients.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Username: LACMA_museum

LACMA is the largest art museum in western US and contains artwork from various time periods.

LACMA shines on Snapchat, where the museum uses its Snapchat Stories to take a shot of a famous work of art and add a hilarious caption, basically turning each classic piece of art into a meme.

DJ Khaled

Username: DJKhaled305

The Miami-native hip hop producer amassed over six million followers in a few short months on the app. His Snapchat antics range from motivational speeches, "fan luv" meet-ups, hanging out with other celebrities, and the occasional jet ski ride.