It’s far from unusual for tech companies to be extremely secretive. Social media giant’s such as Facebook have weekly all-hands meetings with every single employee, and, if a secret leaks from it, the leaker would likely face termination. Apple is perhaps most famous for its secretive culture. At Apple, Steve Jobs notorious did things like only let Apple employees test iPads in blacked-out, secluded rooms. Snapchat is no different than these companies, and C.E.O. Evan Spiegel, is apparently beginning to run his company in a similar fashion by embracing the concept of ultra secrecy.
As Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, prepared for its initial public offering in 2017, it’s becoming more clear than ever just how secretive Snap is. The first sign of this was when news about their I.P.O. was leaked. Snap was angry at the underwriters of their I.P.O., who they assumed were responsible for the leaks, and threatened to reduce their fees. This stern response is normal behavior at Snapchat. According to employees, Spiegel, the 26-year-old co-founder of the company, reportedly prefers to communicate with his executives via Snap’s disappearing messages. The company also doesn’t do giant all-hands meetings like Facebook– employees often learn of big company news right when the public does.
In 2014, when Sony information was leaked, it included reports of Snapchat’s product acquisitions. Spiegel published a memo to his employees and partners that said he “felt like he was going to cry all morning” after the news leaked. He added, “We keep secrets because we love surprising people. We keep secrets because it’s the best way to keep showing the world that growth is not only possible, it’s necessary. We keep secrets because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s the easy thing to do.” He emphasized his point by saying, “We keep secrets because we get to do our work free from judgement—until we’re ready to share it. We keep secrets because keeping secrets gives you space to change your mind until you’re really sure that you’re right.”
According to Bloomberg, Spiegel is “the only person who knows the full picture of the company’s next steps.” He has the final say in almost everything that the company does and has also laid out a plan to keep almost complete control of the company as Snap goes public. The Wall Street Journal reported that Speigel and his co-founder, Bobby Murphy, still own about 45 percent of Snap stock. They’re only planning on issuing non-voting-class shares to new investors, which will allow them to have over 70 percent control over Snap’s voting rights. This move isn’t uncommon, but it could give some investors hesitation about whether or not they should consider to buy into the company’s I.P.O.
As Snap prepares for it’s I.P.O., it’s clear that Spiegel wants to keep tight control over company information. At this time, Snap doesn’t tend to release information about metrics or usage. Advertisers feel somewhat in the dark and don’t quite know if Snapchat is an effective tool to reach audiences. It’s not even publicly known how many daily active users Snap as at the moment– we just know that in the summer of 2016 they had 150 daily users of the app.
It has been reported that Spiegel is telling investors that Snap is the next Facebook. Investors will have to decide if they trust Spiegel and his vision for the company.