Evan Spiegel Defends Snap IPO as "Right Thing at the Time"


The CEO of the messaging app also unveiled a new collaboration with the artist Jeff Koons.

Snap's stock might be trading down nearly 40 percent since its March IPO, but CEO Evan Spiegel says it was the right move for the company behind the messaging app Snapchat. 

"I think going public was the right thing for the company and certainly the right thing at the time," Spiegel told Walter Isaacson during the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit Tuesday in Beverly Hills. The entrepreneur went on to explain that the move was "the best way to grow the company in the long term." 

But 27-year-old Spiegel, who started Snap while he was a Stanford undergraduate, acknowledged that communication hasn't come easy to him since the IPO. "One of the things I underestimated was how much more important communication becomes," he said. "One of the things we've been going through this year is how to best communicate the Snap story." 

He seemed to have it down during the Summit, explaining to a blunt and direct Isaacson that he views Snapchat, which started as an app for disappearing messages, as removing friction from the creative process. Asked about positioning Snap as a camera company, Spiegel explained that "cameras inspire curiosity. They encourage you to look around. That's really different, actually, than starting at a blank sheet of paper." 

At the beginning of the talk, Spiegel unveiled a new collaboration with the artist Jeff Koons that uses AI to virtually place some of his most famous sculptures in outdoor locations around the world. The technology currently only activates at set locations in cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London and Paris. People within 300 metes of the locations can use the Snapchat app and tap on the screen to pull up the Koons lens. 

During the conversation, Isaacson asked Spiegel about attracting an older audience. Spiegel's response, that half of Snapchat's users are over the age of 25, drew laugh from the audience. "We encourage people to try out the product," he added. "It just feels so good to create something." 

Isaacson also queried Spiegel about sales of Snap's Spectacles product, a pair of glasses that record video that can be uploaded straight to Snapchat. "It's out-sold our expectation. We've sold over 150,000 units," Spiegel responded, noting that the first iPod sold around 100,000 units at first. "Our goal was, if we can sell 100,000, then at least people are open to trying a new way to make memories." 

Spiegel dodged a question about how Facebook and Google have handled fake news, a problem not as persistent on Snapchat because most of its content is curated. "I'm trying to learn how to be diplomatic," he said after a long pause. 

He ended the talk by explaining that he's focused on doing "a better job communicating" about Snap both to the world and his own employees, explaining that it's better for the company "when everyone understands our goals and objectives."