First Text with Cory Levy
20 | BILLY GALLAGHER - How To Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story
Sep 17, 2019 · 19 min
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This week, Cory speaks to journalist, author and startup analyst Billy Gallagher, who is well known for covering early-stage startups at TechCrunch and being an analyst at Khosla Ventures. Billy attended Stanford and was in the same fraternity as Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel, which he has now written a new book out today on Amazon titled ‘How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars’ covering the events that lead to its skyrocketing multi-billion dollar success. In this week’s episode, Billy talks about how he landed a job at TechCrunch while at college, his exposure to early-stage startups while in venture capital, how he met Evan, and if he thinks Snapchat can become the next Facebook and tells us more about his new book.

“LAUNCH AS EARLY AS YOU CAN.”

Billy Gallagher (@GallagherBilly) is an investor and author, who recently published How To Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story.

Billy first met Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel as a sophomore at Stanford.

“We were in the same fraternity. He had already left the fraternity by the time joined, but we ran in similar crowds. He was two years above me, big personality on campus, had some mutual friends. Met him a few times socially and then, my new editor at TechCrunch was telling me to cover a story on Stanford and the two hottest startups at the time were Snapchat and Clinkle so I started chasing those down.”

Cory Levy talked with Billy on the OFF RCRD Podcast about his early interactions with Snapchat, their wild journey, and what other founders can learn from the Snapchat story. Among the questions asked was “what was the first interview (with Evan Spiegel) like?

“Evan was already very similar to what he is today, cocky, very brash, but also really intelligent…I remember one of the lines from our interview…he thought the sexting narrative was overblown because it’s not as fun as having real sex, which is a pretty funny line to have in the press.”

As Billy described in the interview, Evan and the Snapchat team took a unique and aggressive approach that helped get them to where they are today.

“Intense focus, Snap’s managed to stay pretty focused on what the core use case is. They learned a ton from their users. They came out with these things where, at first, when it was just photo and video messaging, users didn’t ask for Stories; they actually asked for group messaging. But Snap focused on Stories and made that a hit and then, much, much later added group messaging. I think that combination of listening to users but not just blindly doing what they say and actually saying to yourself, ‘What are they telling us? What is the problem they want to solve? What’s the best way of long-term for us to solve that?’ not just, ‘You asked for a feature, let’s blindly go build it.’”

Through his work with the company, time spent as an analyst for Khosla Ventures and interviews with Evan Spiegel, Billy had the ability to learn about and see Snapchat in action first-hand from the very start back in 2012. How To Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story dives inside the life of Evan Spiegel, the early roadblocks the company had to overcome, turning down billions of dollars, and much more. 

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