Life is good for Evan Spiegel.
His company, Snap Inc., is preparing for one of the most hotly anticipated initial public offerings of 2017 at a valuation of about AUD$27.23 billion (US$20 billion). The Snapchat app is beloved by teens everywhere, and Snap’s recently released Spectacles glasses are one of the most sought-after gadgets.
And with an estimated net worth of $2.86 billion, Spiegel, 26, is the youngest self-made billionaire in the world, according to Forbes.
He lives a charmed life and he knows it.
“I am a young, white, educated male,” he once said at a Stanford business conference. “I got really, really lucky. And life isn’t fair.”
Spiegel grew up in the Pacific Palisades, a ritzy Los Angeles enclave just east of Malibu. He is the older son of two Ivy League-educated lawyers. His parents divorced when he was in high school.
When Spiegel turned 16 and got his driver's licence, he was given a Cadillac Escalade, which he parked in the gated Southern California Edison parking lot next to his school. Spiegel's father represented Edison during the energy crisis.
Spiegel spent his early years at an ultra-exclusive school called Crossroads in Santa Monica, which costs tens of thousands per academic year. Other notable alumni include Tinder cofounder Sean Rad, Kate Hudson, Jonah Hill, Jack Black, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Around the time that he landed a marketing internship with Red Bull, Spiegel decided that he wanted a more fuel-efficient car to drive around the city in. In a letter from 2008, Spiegel asked his parents to lease him a BMW 550i, which retails for about $102,110. 'Cars bring me sheer joy,' he wrote. 'I would really appreciate you validating me and all of my hard work by leasing the BMW.'
The Spiegels were members of a number of exclusive clubs, including the Jonathan Club in Santa Monica and the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. They often went on trips to Europe, employed a full-time housekeeper, and even went snowboarding by helicopter in Canada. 'We live in a bubble,' Evan wrote in the letter asking for the BMW.
Spiegel went on to study product design at Stanford (his father's alma mater), where he met future Snapchat cofounders Reggie Brown and Bobby Murphy.
The three were members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Spiegel was social chair, and judging from leaked emails, he was quite the partier.
In 2014, emails from Spiegel's days at Stanford were leaked. In expletive-laden messages to members of his fraternity, Spiegel made offensive jokes about having sex with women.
Once the emails were publicized, Spiegel issued an apology.
'I'm sorry I wrote them at the time and I was jerk to have written them,' he said in 2014. 'They in no way reflect who I am today or my views towards women.'
While at Stanford, a friend of the family let Spiegel sit in on a graduate-level class on entrepreneurship and venture capital. In that class he heard talks from tech luminaries like Google CEO Eric Schmidt and YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley.
Spiegel befriended Intuit founder Scott Cook after he gave a talk at one class. Cook ended up letting Spiegel work on a product Intuit planned to release in India while he worked on his undergrad.
Spiegel dropped out of Stanford just a few credits short of graduation to work on Snapchat full time. The team developed the bulk of the disappearing messages app, which was first called Picaboo, in 2012 while headquartered at Spiegel's dad's house in the Palisades.
Though Snapchat eventually moved to offices on the Venice boardwalk, Spiegel lived at his dad's house for years, in part because 'the rent is cheap.' He moved out of his dad's house in November 2014 and bought his own three-bedroom house in Brentwood for $4.49 million.
It wasn't long before would-be acquirers came knocking on Spiegel's door to buy Snapchat. He famously rebuffed a $4.08 billion offer from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2013.
Shortly after Spiegel turned down the offer from Zuckerberg, Facebook tried to clone Snapchat with a failed app called Poke.