There were a lot of startups that broke out of obscurity this year.
From Uber to Tinder to Snapchat, a few companies got millions of mainstream users to download and use their products. In Uber’s case, the company is generating tens of millions per week.
But the startup that won 2013 has to be Snapchat (Runner up: Uber).
Sure, Snapchat generates no revenue. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t building a great, massive business.
Let’s go over the year it has had.
In early 2013, Snapchat defeated Poke. Poke was an app launched by Facebook that ripped off Snapchat’s entire premise just weeks after the founders met with Mark Zuckerberg. Poke sat at the top of the App Store for a few days before falling off the charts completely.
In February, an ousted member of the founding Snapchat team, Reggie Brown, filed a lawsuit against founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy for one-third of the company. At the very least, the lawsuit validates Snapchat. If the app wasn’t something special, there’d be no reason for three people who used to be friends and fraternity brothers to sue each other.
In June, the company raised a $60 million round of financing at an $US800 million valuation. The fundraise also made Murphy and Spiegel rich; the pair reportedly swapped equity for $US10 million in cash each.
At about the same time, people started to realise how ginormous Snapchat had become. A lot of reporters compared the app to Instagram in terms of photos shared per day.
Although the app is still smaller than Instagram in terms of total downloads and monthly active users, and it’s smaller than messaging competitor WhatsApp, Snapchat users now send and receive an impressive 400 million photo messages per day.
That brings us to November, when Snapchat reportedly turned down a $US3 billion offer from Facebook and a reported $US4 billion offer from Google.
At that moment, CEO Evan Spiegel decided he didn’t just want to become rich. Ironically, he wanted to build a lasting product and become an entrepreneurial legend. Instead of joining Mark Zuckerberg, he wanted to become Mark Zuckerberg.
Investors rewarded Snapchat in December with a new $US50 million round of financing at a $US2 billion valuation.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about Snapchat is that it has completely turned social media on its head. From Facebook to Twitter, there’s been a long-standing assumption that people want their lives recorded forever online. Snapchat firmly believes that shared content is best when it’s ephemeral.
Congrats to Snapchat’s team of 30 and its CEO Evan Spiegel for one heck of a year.
*Note: Startup of the year is completely subjective. The decision was based on user adoption, social validation, general achievements and overall growth from 2012 to 2013. That doesn’t mean Snapchat is the most innovative or world-changing startup of the year. If you disagree with our choice, feel free to leave a compelling argument for another startup in the comments.