Since its launch in 2011, Snap Inc. has grown to become one of the world's biggest social media’s success stories -- but surprisingly the team behind Snap Inc. considers it a camera company.
The parent company of Snapchat was founded by Stanford students Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown ten years ago. Today, its signature app has over 280 million daily active users and on average over 5 billion snaps are created daily.
Snapchat’s success is largely due to younger generations. Millennials and Gen Z make up the majority of users, with 75% of 13-34 year olds in the U.S. using the app. It’s popularity comes from Snap’s unique premise of “disappearing content” — any photos or videos posted on the app disappear after a few seconds.
At its virtual Partner Summit in May, the company unveiled a slew of new augmented reality features it has been working on, including its newest iteration of Spectacles, a wearable, AR-headset that allows users to to experience augmented reality effects in real time.
The Org identified the key players working behind-the-scenes at Snap as it jumps into the race against other big tech players like Facebook to dominate the AR market.
At the helm of the sprawling, Los Angeles-based organization is CEO Evan Spiegel. Spiegel skyrocketed to billionaire status in 2015, when the value of his Snapchat shares reached $1 billion. At just 25, he became one of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires. (Mark Zuckerberg held the record for youngest at 23 until he was unseated by Kylie Jenner in 2019).
Spiegel has led Snap since the beginning, seeing the company through its public listing in 2017, which was one of the year’s largest tech IPOs. And now it seems he is leading the company towards a future in AR.
“I don’t believe the phone is going away,” Spiegel said in an interview with The Verge in May 2021. “I just think that the next generation of Spectacles can help unlock a new way to use AR hands-free, and the ability to really roam around with your eyes looking up at the horizon, out at the world.”
The company has created an impressive lineup of experimental technology in its ten years of existence. And behind it all -- from the industry-shaping “Stories” to its most recent AR “Lens” feature -- is the other half of the founding team, CTO Bobby Murphy. Murphy is credited with writing the code for the first version of Snapchat after being approached by fellow co-founders Spiegel and Brown at Stanford.
Notoriously private, Fast Company described Murphy as the “secret weapon” to Snap’s growing comeback and newfound growth.
Out of Snap’s 280 million daily active users, 200 million engage with augmented reality every day on average. This is in part due to Murphy and his team’s work behind the scenes to seamlessly integrate AR into the product. Working closely with Murphy on these projects is Eitan Pilipski, SVP for Snap’s camera platform.
Pilipski used to work as a Senior Director of Engineering at Qualcomm and has a strong background in wearable technology, mixed and augmented reality. He’s a driving force behind Snap’s Lens Studio, which lets creators design and upload their own AR filters straight to the app.
While AR is the new frontier at the forefront of Snap’s growth initiatives, the vast majority of user activity happens on the app. This is overseen by VP of Product Jacob Andreou. The former co-founder and product lead at marketing analytics company ThinkAlli, Andreou joined Snap in 2015 and has served in various roles in product, growth and design. His team’s most recent product feature is Spotlight, a TikTok-inspired, user-generated content feed that aims to produce viral videos.
The new creator-friendly features like Lens Studio and Spotlight are part of a greater effort for Snap to keep its younger audience engaged and become a mainstay as a creator-friendly platform. A big way Snap invests in this is through its brand and event partnerships, overseen by SVP Ben Schwerin.
Schwerin and his team oversees all content and partnerships, and is responsible for bringing events like NFL football and the Olympics to the app. Before joining Snap in 2015, Schwerin was a co-founder of Fenway Strategies, a speechwriting and content strategy firm founded by former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau and national security spokesman Tommy Vietor.
To get an idea of the size and speed of Snap’s servers, over two million “snaps” are sent every minute and it would take over 10 years to view all of the photos sent over Snap in the past hour. The result is the need for a lot of data storage, something Snap has struggled with in the past on both the employee and user privacy sides.
The team taking on this massive product and engineering effort is led by Jerry Hunter, SVP of Engineering at Snap. Hunter joined the team in 2016 as VP of Core Engineering and was promoted to his current role a year later. He came to Snap after nearly a decade at Amazon, where he was responsible for the company’s data centers across the globe as VP of Infrastructure. A seasoned data engineer, he also spent over 16 years at Sun Microsystems, a computer technology company that was bought by Oraclein 2010.
Snap hasn’t had the smoothest journey post-IPO with its financials, with stock prices rising and then plummeting, stirring investor doubts about the future of social media stability. But this past year, it saw revenue increase 66% compared to the previous year, up to $770 million.
Overseeing the books is seasoned broadcast executive Derek Andersen. Andersen joined the company in 2018 as VP of Finance and was promoted to CFO the following year. He previously worked as VP of Finance of Amazon’s digital video business. He also previously served as SVP of Finance and Business Operations for IGN atFox Interactive Media.
As finances appear to be looking up, so too do prospects for growth. Currently, Snap is aggressively hiring, with hundreds of open roles listed on its career page, the bulk in product and engineering. There are also a number of listings across all functions including, content, graphic design and product and research. Leading this expansion is Chief Human Resources Officer Darcie Henry.
Henry replaces Head of People Lara Sweet, who announced her decision to retire in March 2021. Henry also came from Amazon, where she had been since 1998. Her background in scaling talent and HR operations at one of the world’s biggest companies will be vital as Snap looks to build out a new chapter in both its technology and growth.
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