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9 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Evan Spiegel, Founder of SnapChat

Avatar Written by Sarwat Fatima · 4 min read>
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Mobilink arranged the first major entrepreneurial visit from Silicon Valley to Pakistan at SEECS, NUST on 4th December, 2014. Entrepreneurs, Evan Spiegel – CEO Snapchat and Augie Fabela – Co-founder of VeimpelCom Group were the guests of the event.

Evan Spiegel is the brain behind Snapchat which is a non-conventional messaging app attracting 100 million monthly users. Snapchat lets a user to set a time limit with a message which gets deleted off the receiver’s phone and Snapchat servers after that specified time period. This feature helps maintain security and privacy of user data. Market Analysts had valued the company at $10 billion.

The event was carried out in an interview format, where Augie Fabela and the audience asked questions from Evan. This QA session gave insight to his background, his history and the series of events that led to Snapchat. However, the most important part of the event was that Pakistani youth were able to listen and learn about a business journey from an entrepreneurial person who was of the same age as them.

This is what I learned from the overall event with regards to entrepreneurship and like Mr. Jeffery said we are all here to listen, learn and share, let me share some untold highlights of the event.

1. Five Key Attributes Of Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs need to have five major values to turn a successful start-up into a global product as learned by Mr. Augie Fabelo through his experience with VeimpelCom. The five attributes that every entrepreneur should have are purpose, passion, perseverance, right people and the pioneering spirit. When you bring all these values together then it is leadership.

Purpose is to know what you want to do and what is your final goal. It is really important to maintain focus amidst countless distractions which is only possible through a clear goal that keeps you going in the right direction.

Passion is what leads you to achieve the impossible and to overcome rejection. When you have a well-defined purpose you will stick to your passion even when reality is telling you otherwise. Mr. Augie said that whenever he heard ‘impossible’ and ‘no’, it was his cue to turn that impossible into possible.

Perseverance is the key attribute which gets you through times when even passion does not. You need to chase vision, opportunity and something to make the world different. Perseverance is to keep going after your purpose despite all the hurdles and DE motivators.

Making the right team is important for any business i.e. to bring together people who share the same vision, purpose and passion. You will have to change people in order to transit from start-up to global cooperation at the right time. This is because when characteristics of the company change, opportunities and geography change.

Pioneering Spirit is the ability and desire to always be doing something that no one ever has done before. Entrepreneurs can excel at anything if they can think out of the box ideas.

SnapChat CEO Evan Spiegel

2. Who Can Start A Company?

Evan Spiegel was asked a question from audience, “Do you think anyone can start a company?” His answer was simple and to the point, “Absolutely. If I can, you can.”

Earlier this, Mr. Augie Fabelo said that building a startup is not the most daunting task when you have the idea and passion. You don’t always have the perfect solution that you can get right in the first, second or even third attempt. You have to have five key attributes of an entrepreneur to build your idea into a startup.

3. A Good Time For A Startup

Evan and his team were just having fun since the time they tried their first product. The reason was that they had the safety net of being in the university and around people who were going through the same situation. If you are studying in good high ranked universities then you are in a good position to start a business. Great universities attract big industries, offer opportunities for networking and guidance from other entrepreneurs.

4. Evan Spiegel’s Way Of Doing Business

Evan Spiegel had the vision and the ability to attract & retain the right people and grow the right partnership for Snapchat. As Mr. Jeffery from Mobilink introduced Evan, he shared his own observations about this young inspiring entrepreneur.

First one is the power of simplicity which is exactly what a customer wants. Second one is that despite all the success, he remained true to the principles with which he started the company. He did not allow himself to be lured here and there loosing sense of his pioneering principles.

5. First Lesson Learned By Evan Spiegel

Evan and his friend bobby started a company ‘InterFreshman’ which was related to admissions in college. It was really frustrating to apply to college with all the forms which made the procedure complicated so they build a software that organized all the data related to college application. They spent a year on the software and they didn’t know that both of their siblings were not even using the software. This is when they learned their first hard lesson i.e. to able to know faster that they are doing things wrong.

6. Avoid Standard Terms

Several times during business deals and negotiation, Evan had experienced stuff which was so complicated that it cannot be put into simple English words. When Evan asked about why putting it in here if no one understands it, he was replied that it’s standard. According to Evan, standard is really a code for “I have no idea what I am talking about.” Therefore, Evan and his team have learned to not to sign up deals with businesses offering standard terms.

7. Don’t Chase Money

Mr. Augie Fabela shared that during his 24 year experience of ViempleCom, he was fortunate enough to meet great entrepreneurs from whom he learned a lot. He did not meet a single entrepreneur who chased money.

Entrepreneurship is all about vision, the desire to make a difference, desire to prove something to yourself and it is not about money. Of course, you would need revenue to build a startup but being committed to passion is important as well. If you are just chasing money, you are probably not set up for being a great entrepreneur. You need to believe what you want to do and stick with it no matter what happens.

8. Dealing With Competition

During audience questions, Mohammad Mansoor from Touch’d asked,”When Mark Zuckerberg offered you three billion dollars for Snapchat and you turned him down, how easy or difficult a decision it was for you?”

Evan: We have a lot of admiration for our competitors, they are really serious, really big and they know what they are doing. So, I think it is always, always tough. But I don’t think you define your business, what you are doing in terms of other people. The way you have to do is what you believe in and what you want to do. And we built a team around that idea. So when you built a team that is terrific who believes in building something really meaningful, you just keep going.

9. Ask Yourself. Do You Want To Work For Someone Else?

Mr. Augie Fablo asked Evan, “When did you know that you wanted to start a company? What drove you to have that purpose?” Evan Spiegel replied, “A lot of it is not wanting to work for anyone else. My dad had to cancel vacations and he got called from work. I used to thought that when I grow-up, I want to be the guy on the phone.”

If you do not like to work for others or work in your own way then it is a clear sign that you probably are built for becoming an entrepreneur.

You can watch the entire event at this link.

Written by Sarwat Fatima
Sarwat is a journalist and DIY enthusiast. She loves writing about Startups and Businesses. She is heading Islamabad and surrounding areas for news coverage. Profile