By Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.
Spiegel, once praised as a visionary leader, appears directionless as investors abandon Snap. A long-shot bid for relevancy may offer hope—or presage the final act of a company past its prime.
In a 2016 profile of Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel, Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky, a member of the company’s board at the time, described the fledgeling C.E.O. in a way that would turn out to be oddly prescient. “One of the company’s great attributes is their willingness to put out a lot of product,” he told Recode. “Evan’s got a lot of interesting ideas, and he’s absolutely fearless about putting them out there. If they don’t work, so be it.” That was before Lasky stepped down from the board, and before Snapchat parent company Snap’s stock price took a nosedive following its much-hyped I.P.O. Two years later, a series of reports has emerged that suggest Spiegel’s “fearless” attitude—once likened to that of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and even Picasso—may be what’s sent his company into a veritable tailspin.
The most recent bad press arrives via The Information, which on Monday depicted Spiegel as arrogant and detached. According to the outlet, Spiegel spent board meetings on his phone, messaging people on Snapchat. He was often “dismissive” of Lasky, people familiar with their conversations said. According to one source, while Lasky had advised Spiegel to consider Wall Street’s expectations, Spiegel preferred to focus on the company’s “long-term strategy.” Per the source, his attitude toward Wall Street was essentially, “fuck the markets.”
Spiegel’s hubris reportedly colored not only his relationship with the Snap board, but also with his employees. In August, Bloomberg reported that Snap executives were well aware of Instagram’s potential to threaten Snapchat’s growth—an investor risk that wasn’t disclosed during Snap’s I.P.O., prompting investigations by the Justice Department and the S.E.C.—but that Spiegel ignored their warnings. (Snap pushed back on this narrative, saying Spiegel had warned of competition from Instagram.) “No exec challenges Evan,” a former Snap employee told Bloomberg. “No exec who lasts over a month, anyway.”