My co-founder Bobby and I met at Stanford in 2009. I was a freshman studying Product Design and Bobby was a junior working on his B.S. in Mathematical and Computational Science. Our first project was Future Freshman – a site that would forever improve the way high school students applied to college. Or so we thought. The site failed to get traction but we learned something important — we loved working together.
In April 2011 we moved into the not yet lucrative world of mobile photo sharing. With most photo apps on the market advertising ways to make photos prettier or more stylized, we thought there was an opportunity to do something different. We wanted a place to share awkward selfies and funny photos with our friends.
And after hearing hilarious stories about emergency detagging of Facebook photos before job interviews and photoshopping blemishes out of candid shots before they hit the Internet (because your world would crumble if anyone found out you had a pimple on the 38th day of 9th grade), there had to be a better solution.
We quickly got the first prototype up and running and continued to develop it throughout the following summer in Los Angeles. We worked tirelessly - except on beach days - with great input from close friends and family. Then in September 2011 we launched in the AppStore.
To get a better sense of how people were using Snapchat and what we could do to make it better, we reached out to some of our users. We were thrilled to hear that most of them were high school students who were using Snapchat as a new way to pass notes in class—behind-the-back photos of teachers and funny faces were sent back and forth throughout the day. Server data supported this and we saw peaks of activity during the school day and dips on the weekends.
We still can’t see any of the Snaps sent through our service, but we have tweets, emails, and Snapchat-tagged photos on Instagram to keep us tuned in to what our creative users are doing.
Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion — not just what appears to be pretty or perfect. Like when I think I’m good at imitating the face of a star-nosed mole, or if I want to show my friend the girl I have a crush on (it would be awkward if that got around), and when I’m away at college and miss my Mom…er…my friends.
We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.
We love the app — couldn’t go a day without it — and we’re super excited about the future.
Stay tuned. We have some really cool stuff on the way.