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How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  636 ratings  ·  62 reviews
In the grand tradition of Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires (2009)... an engaging look into a fascinating subculture of millions. --Booklist

Breezy...How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars ably if uncritically chronicles the short history of a young company catering to young users, with a young chief executive, and reveals, intentionally or not, the limitations that
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by St. Martin's Press
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Tim O'Hearn
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Evidence that we're starting to run out of compelling titles for compelling books. If I was Billy Gallagher, I would have toyed with calling my book Ghosted, as that's what Evan Spiegel did to our poor author. And, well, you know--the Snapchat mascot is a ghost.

The story of Snap Inc. is pretty simple even if it is true that many adults have a hard time understanding the app that made it famous. The abridged version is this: 1. Evan's friend came up with an idea; 2. The idea worked; 3. Everyone t
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Decent coverage on the birth and growth of Snapchat right up to its IPO. The first half was fascinating as we learn how the idea of "ephemerality" as a direct counter to then-prevailing social media's permanence came about and was given form by the young and driven founders. I had always assumed people wanted their social media posts, photos and videos to be permanent, since they spent so much time on curating the "perfect life", but it seems people also want a space where they can just goof aro ...more
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
The rise of Snapchat is a conceptually interesting story, especially when viewed through the lens of the app (and company) being a deliberate anti-Facebook. The author, who knew the founders personally, and also writes for Techcrunch, in some ways should be a good choice to tell the tale… but it turns out that he does a pretty bad job of it. This swings wildly between hagiography and info-dump, and, if anything, the shared background leads him to skip much too quickly over all the nastiest frat- ...more
Shockingly good

“When everyone is tired and the night is over, who stays and helps out? Because those are your true friends. Those are the hard workers, the people that believe that working hard is the right thing to do.”

I didn't know I needed to read the story of Snapshot until I started reading this book and I am so happy I did- WOW.

I remember hearing about Snapchat from my friend and thinking- "UGH! Another social media app to learn and download". Once I got my tutorial I honestly wasted a g
Maran Subramaniam
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The word “ephemeral”, comes up very often in Billy Gallagher’s “How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story”, because just as Facebook honed in to the human need to connect and socialize and capitalized on it, Snapchat gets relevant as it became increasingly clear what is posted on today's social media lives forever in one form or another – a scary enough thought to the current generation of digital natives who potentially understands more of its long term implications than their pare ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book feels like a Backstage Pass to all things Snapchat Drama. I loved the mix of narrative, business, and investigative reporting.
Thai Son
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dry writing, partly because it's the author's first book. Some details are merely listed because author did not bother connecting the dots. Book has been criticized for being not detailed enough. It's good for me, more would be too into juicy distractive things.

And more importantly book inspired me to take active measures to disconnect from facebook.
Viswanath Kuchibhotla
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Two companies started in Stanford in 2011. Clinkle and Snapchat.

Clinkle was called revolutionary, brilliant and was funded $30 million in seed by Peter Thiel, Richard Branson and other Silicon Valley big shots.

Snapchat was called weird, was a dud when it released, and people dismissed it as a stupid and silly app that no one used for more than an year. After an year Clinkle crashed and burned and Snapchat soared.

This book is about Snapchat, and this is a brilliant read into Social Networking. Th
Manas Saloi
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am rating this 5 and not 4, because I really liked how the author pointed out the different path that Snapchat took to grow to where it is now. I did not just learn Snapchat's history but also how it used trade-offs (one of porter's strategy tests) as part of its strategy ...more
Sandy Lu
May 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, biography
Some authors should never narrate their own book. This author sounds like a college frat boy--slurring his words like he's on something or had food in his mouth, oftentimes even bored with his own material. It took incredible will power and a lot of wincing to finish listening. Leave it to the professionals next time, please. ...more
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Disclaimer: I received this book for free through a Goodreads' giveaway.

Evan Spiegel is difficult (I'd lean towards impossible) to like, and How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars makes that even clearer. The author, Billy Gallagher, shares his insider perspective on Snapchat (he knew Spiegel and others involved with the start-up in the early years at Stanford) and combines it with quotes from interviews, publicized documents (whether by choice or through hacks), and more to paint the picture of Sna
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was curious what's the idea behind the book. First I was a little bit disappointed when I read the main person associated with Snapchat didn't want to participate in creating this book. Especially when the author claimed he knew Evan when Snapchat was born. Will the 'not so good' relationship (which I suspected at the beginning) influence the story?

Some parts of the book are engaging, some make you feel bored. Stories about Stanford student's activities and parties - I wanted to skip the chapt
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, media, business
Another book on a tech high-flyer written by an author that doesn’t have access to key sources within the company he’s profiling. Gallagher was frat-related to the founders and early employees of Snapchat, but lost his access when he began writing for Silicon Valley media. The story felt a lot like “The Accidental Billionaires”, heavy on frat mores and stories in the beginning, and putting the founder on a pedestal at the end. The remaining founder, Evan Spiegel, comes off by the end of the book ...more
Alex Devero
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, business
Billi Galagher does a good job of covering the rise of Snapchat. The story begins with Evan's childhood, proceeds to college years and continues to his first startup ideas and experiments followed by the idea of Snapchat, then Picaboo. Billy ends the story of Snapchat with IPO, transforming Snapchat into Snap Inc. and releasing its first physical product–the spectacles. The whole story of Snapchat, and the book itself, is divided into two parts. First part is about the idea of Snapchat and its h ...more
Gregg R.
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read a couple books a week, and the last two weeks have definitely altered my perception of the business landscape. Two weeks ago I read The Upstarts - How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World. Last week I read The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. Today I finished this book about Snapchat. Facebook, Google, and Amazon now seem like the behemoths of yesteryear. While they are obviously still tec ...more
mohammed sameer
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a story of Snapchats rise to stardom and the many challenges faced along the way.
It starts with how a random idea of disappearing images labeled good for sexting was transformed into a safe haven for young generation to express freely. It also talks about how Snapchat being a Los Angeles based company takes its inspiration from Hollywood rather than Silicon valley to ensure there is entertainment quotient built into app. Additionally, we learn about Evan a Stanford student turned CEO ob
Anirudh Jain
Feb 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Quick Description: This book chronicles the story of Evan Spiegel and the creation of Snapchat in spite of the incredible odds of hacks, acquisition offers by facebook, media scrutiny and a vindictive ex-employee.

Review: The author is a tech journalist hence the following book is meticulously researched, presented in a palatable flow and was true to the timelines. The author is an alumnus of Stanford has an insight had some sort of fanboy praise for Evan. So a lot of scandals of Snapchat were br
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
The story of Snapchat, a unicorn out of Stanford, told through the eyes of a Stanford alumni who was at Stanford at the same time as Evan Spiegel the main force behind Snapchat: you already know what to expect. The golden boys of Silicon Valley (although transplanted to LA), an unlikely success among all who come up with great ideas and few succeed. Linear story without too much depth. Written like a business school case study.
The interesting part is probably the way they look at the product an
Petr Bela
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible-uk, startup
This is an excellent book about product thinking, the Internet, and the future of communication. Despite its catchy title, it doesn't really spend much time on the lawsuits and acquisition talks; instead, it documents the rise of Snapchat and Evan Spiegel from the "sexting" Stanford experiment into a multi-billion public company that shapes the way we talk to each other. More than anything else, it focuses on the product itself: why it exists, what needs does it solve, how new features are being ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of the biggest take a ways for me was that change will make your business or even you last. Even we have to spend more time learning new skills, since the internet is allowing us to increase our business in ways we never expected. Another take a way was to not just concentrate on your major in college. Plan on learning skills in different areas like fundraising, design and writing to gain better opportunities.

I definitely recommend college students and business students to read this book. Th
Monika Mikowska
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading stories of other entrepreneurs or companies is always very inspirational. Billy Gallagher did pretty good job on being as impartial as possible. Irrespectively, I don’t think if all threads were unspoiled by author’s own interpretations. Moreover, I have a feeling that many threads were abandoned or insufficiently described. I would love to hear Evan’s point of view to have a full perspective. Apart from that, I collected a few important take outs from this book (do a lot experiments, ki ...more
Tom Maxwell
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
The first half of this book provides a real insiders look at Snapchat in its early days. The book is worth a read for that, definitely. The second half, however, is straight reporting on every new product released up to Snap's IPO and its attempts to monetize the app. There really isn't any unique insight here and if you've been following Snapchat in the media there's nothing new in the second half of this book. It's obvious the point at which Gallagher lost touch with Spiegel based on how dry t ...more
LPL Staff Reviews
This book provided wonderful insight as to how Snapchat was made, and the thinking behind all of the updates they do, and why they do them. The first half of the book was really interesting as it talked about the idea behind Snapchat and Evan's personality. Towards the end, it got a little more dry, but still very informative. I will say though, that if you don't use Snapchat, it may be hard to visualize some of the features that the author talks about in the book.

Alex F.
Mahon Library

Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I have not been a Snap Chat user in years but I couldn't get myself to delete the app. After knowing the story behind the company, I truly admire it and will continue to use / support it - Evan is someone I can get behind, especially in a world where Facebook acquires everyone and everything.

I think people need to shed the view of this app as a sexting app - it is so much more and represents the anti-social media that Instagram seems to represent. I guess I just wish that it was sold that way m
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.6. An interesting look at the origins of Snap Inc. For older people it helpfully explains why the interface is so confusing and there is no tutorial: it was designed to be something passed along from friend to friend a la “How did you do that? Can you show me?” The author did not have complete access to behind-the-scenes details although he was invited to one of the Venice Beach NYE parties (notably the one Taylor Swift attended) where phones were collected at the door (no Snapchatting is allo ...more
Tarun Pothulapati
Great Book!

As snapchat is a bit low key compared to other social media companies. This book gives a great introduction to how snapchat was founded, and the vision that Evan had. Not only that, but the journey on how snapchat which was initially perceived as a toy, and later turning into a full blown business is well explained. The main interesting part to me was the explanation on how initial users perceived and used snapchat, that set the stage for future plans. Overall, An interesting read!
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audiobook via audible - Great accounts and insight into things that happened inside Snapchat during its first few years of existence.

The book is heavily biased in favor of founder Evan Spiegel who appears almost unable to do wrong. Many comparisons to Steve Jobs and very few recounted stories end up looking like anything other than a huge win for the former Stanford student turned founder of Snapchat.

Nonetheless, many interesting inside details into a notoriously opaque organiz
Alex Ferguson
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book provided wonderful insight as to how Snapchat was made, and the thinking behind all of the updates they do, and why they do them. The first half of the book was really interesting as it talked about the idea behind Snapchat and Evan's personality. Towards the end, it got a little more dry, but still very informative. I will say though, that if you don't use Snapchat, it may be hard to visualize some of the features that the author talks about in the book. ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
The bad: it's alright. Although it covers Snapchat's story in depth throughout the years, and the research is fair, it's not especially appealing.

The good: it's an interesting take on a platform that I personally didn't fully understand and now do (better). It illustrates Snap's evolution, its appeal, how it adds value to marketers and others, and other aspects hard to understand for people outside the core demographic. Informative enough.
Caner Aydin
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always wondered what makes a photo-taking app successful while there are thousands of different alternatives doing the same job. This book clearly explains the "difference" of Snapchat against others and tells the story of Snapchat and its founder Evan very well.

First 60-70 pages of the book are just for explaining the drama between some dudes in their 20-somethings, so it was a bit boring at the very beginning. The business part starts after this, so do not throw the book to the bin when
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Billy Gallagher is the author of How To Turn Down A Billion Dollars, a February 2018 book chronicling Snapchat’s rise from dorm room idea to multi-billion dollar company.

He is an MBA candidate at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Previously, he was a member of the investment team at Khosla Ventures and a writer at TechCrunch, which he joined as a Stanford sophomore, writing a profile of a po

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“Evan was attracted to technology early on, building his first computer in sixth grade and experimenting with Photoshop in the Crossroads computer lab. He would later describe the computer teacher, Dan, as his best friend. Evan dove into journalism as well, writing for the school newspaper, Crossfire. One journalism class required students to sell a certain amount of advertising for Crossfire as part of their grade. Evan walked around the neighborhood asking local businesses to buy ads; once he had exceeded his sales goals, he helped coach his peers on how to pitch businesses and ask adults for money. By high school, the group of 20 students Evan had started with in kindergarten had grown to around 120. Charming, charismatic, and smart, Evan threw parties at his dad’s house that were “notorious” in his words. Evan’s outsized personality could rub people the wrong way at times, but his energy, organizing skills, and enthusiasm made him an exceptional party thrower. He possessed a bravado that could be frustrating and off-putting but was great for convincing everyone that the night’s party was going to be the greatest of all time. Obsessed with the energy drink Red Bull and the lifestyle the brand cultivated, Evan talked his way into an internship at the company as a senior in high school. The job involved throwing parties and other events sponsored by Red Bull. Clarence Carter, the head of the company’s security team, would give Evan advice that would stand him well in the years to come: pay attention to who helps you clean up after the party. Later recalling the story, Evan said, “When everyone is tired and the night is over, who stays and helps out? Because those are your true friends. Those are the hard workers, the people that believe that working hard is the right thing to do.” 1 likes
“At a young age, Evan would listen in on his father’s long legal calls, which he credits for giving him early business exposure that helped develop his critical thinking and business accumen. He can often become obsessed with ideas, hungrily learning everything he can about them at a rapid pace. Evan is constantly curious and is learning and getting better at being a CEO very quickly. But his two superpowers are (1) his ability to get inside his users’ heads and think like a teenage girl and (2) his knack for attracting brilliant, powerful mentors. Evan loves picking other people’s brains over a walk or a meal. Over the years he has attracted an A-list roster of mentors, including SoftBank’s Nikesh Arora, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Google’s Eric Schmidt. He doesn’t just limit these brain dumps to tech luminaries, though, as he often walks and chats with fashion designers, politicians, documentary filmmakers, and other intriguing peers. Often, these impressive people will come speak to Team Snapchat at their Venice headquarters.” 1 likes
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