Watch Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel explain Snapchat using a pen and paper

Spiegel, looking a little more comfortable.
Spiegel, looking a little more comfortable.
Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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In 2011, a group of Stanford students thought it would be a great idea to make a messaging app whose messages disappeared. At some point this week, the company they founded, which was originally brushed off as an ephemeral sexting app for teens, will reveal its filings to become a public company.

Today Snapchat has as many as 150 million users, many of whom check it obsessively, multiple times a day. As advertisers—and olds—still try to figure out where Snapchat fits into their lives and businesses, the company is expected to float an IPO valued at roughly $25 billion.

Three years ago, when Snapchat was a bit less ubiquitous—but still already three years old—CEO Evan Spiegel decided it would be a worthwhile exercise to sit down in front of a rather low-resolution webcam and explain in four minutes how the internet works, what social media is, why teens care so much about “identity,” and, of course, where Snapchat fits in:

With a notepad open to a page that literally says “What is Snapchat?” Spiegel attempts to explain the mechanics of his app, apparently to people baffled by what their kids are up to. You’ll have to watch closely, as all of his notes are hard to read through the blurry camera.

The video is relatively awkward, and Spiegel of 2015 seems a world away from the man who now meets with world leaders and impresses Fortune 100 companies (and who is now believed to be personally worth $2 billion).

“Historically, photographs have always been used to save really important memories, but today… pictures are being used for talking,” Spiegel says. “So when you see your children take a zillion photographs of things you’d never take a picture of, it’s because they’re using photographs to talk.”

Sound information for any parent—or investor—who is looking to understand what Snapchat is all about ahead of its IPO.