Nearly everyone can identify Mark Zuckerberg as the creator of Facebook, but who were the brilliant minds behind other popular social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter? How did their ideas come to life, and what can their stories teach us about success?
Snapchat was created by Evan Spiegal when he was only 23 years old. He was studying Product Design at Stanford University when his friend (and one of the cofounders of Snapchat) Reggie Brown complained about how he wished photos he had regrettably sent to someone would disappear. Evan, Reggie, and the third cofounder Bobby Murphy used this concept to start working on an app called Pictaboo. Pictaboo was launched in 2011 but didn’t accumulate many users, and the project failed. They changed the app’s name to Snapchat and the app took off among high school students. By 2012, there were 100,000 users! Mark Zuckerberg actually offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion, but Spiegal turned down this offer. It’s a good thing he did, because Snapchat is currently worth $20 billion! What started off as a simple idea among University students became a multi-billion dollar business; this just goes to show that with enough commitment, a solution to an everyday problem could turn into an unfathomable success.
At 33, Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram, was listed in Fortune’s 40 under 40 in 2014. His story is somewhat similar to Spiegal’s: he went to Stanford as well and graduated with a degree in Management Science and Engineering. He was passionate about photography, so he wanted to create an app that would make mobile photos look more professional using filters. He originally released an app called “Burbn’”, which ultimately failed because it was too complicated for its users. After Burbn’ was revised and renamed, Instagram was released. It was much more user friendly and took off immediately. Systrom combined his main interests, photography and technology, to create Instagram along with co-founder Mike Krieger. Combining a hobby and a subject that you are educated in could result in amazing things.
In University, Systrom landed an internship at Odeo, which later evolved into Twitter. Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter, created Odeo, which was a platform for podcasting. Odeo co-founders started losing hope when Apple launched a podcasting platform that would be built into all iPods, and the demand for podcasting platforms plummeted. Jack Dorsey, an employee at Odeo, came up with an idea that revolved around people publicly stating what they were doing at a given moment in time. Noah Glass, cofounder of Odeo, loved Dorsey’s idea and initially named it “Twttr” before changing it to “Twitter”. Twitter took off in 2006, the same year it launched, after news about a San Francisco earthquake was widely talked about on the site! Creativity and the ability to improvise in stressful situations was the Twitter founders’ recipe for success.
As you can see, Spiegal, Systrom, and Williams faced significant struggles before reaching the level of success they have today. All three of them launched an original app that failed miserably, but instead of giving up and throwing the idea away altogether, they worked to improve it. Spiegal’s story in particular showed the importance of believing in yourself. A $3 billion offer from the founder of Facebook must have been tempting, but he believed he could take his product to new heights, and he did. Whatever field you’re striving to be successful in or what you’re working to accomplish, no idea is too far-fetched. Knowledge and expertise in your line of work are certainly necessary, but these three amazing stories reveal that persistence is key.