Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel goes from innovator to imitator

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This week: Evan Spiegel and the imitator’s dilemma

snapchat

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel
Samantha Lee / Business Insider

If there’s one constant in the consumer internet business, it’s that today’s innovators are tomorrow’s imitators. 

Just a couple years ago, in 2017, Mark Zuckerberg was shamelessly copying Snapchat’s hottest product features. The cloning was so bad that even Snap founder Evan Spiegel’s then-fiancee, Miranda Kerr, weighed in, chiding Facebook for stealing “all of my partner’s ideas.” How do they sleep at night, she wondered.

If Kerr is still curious, she can now just ask her husband. The latest Snapchat feature, unveiled this week, is basically TikTok for Snapchat. Spotlight, the name of the new Snapchat feature, serves up the hottest dance moves, amusing antics, and other short video clips. You don’t need to follow anyone either: Snap’s algorithm, like TikTok’s, will show you what it thinks you’ll like.

Snap’s business is doing just fine — users and revenue both increased at a healthy pace in the third quarter, and the stock is up 171% this year.

But… the writing is on the wall. Kids are gaga for TikTok. And Spiegel (like Zuck, who rolled out his own TikTok clone — Instagram Reels — in the US in August) knows how important it is to pay attention to shifting user habits. 

There’s one twist to Snap’s TikTok envy: Benjamins! Snapchat will offer a daily $1 million rewards pot to entice creators to make videos for Spotlight. 

Spiegel may not realize it, but this, too, is an imitation of another web company’s gimmick — albeit a much less auspicious example. Cash rewards were part of a desperate growth gambit by Yahoo in 2015 when it launched Yahoo Daily Fantasy Sports. The product, which let users win cash by playing fantasy sports, was Yahoo’s attempt to copy the success of DraftKings and FanDuel. (It didn’t work.)

Speaking of look-alike products, remember Parler, the Twitter alternative for free-speech absolutists? 

parler

Twitter; Paige Leskin/Business Insider

Business Insider’s Paige Leskin and Rachel Greenspan took a look at the mysterious history of the social media app that burst on the scene in the aftermath of the US election. 

After rocketing to the No.1 spot in Apple’s App Store downloads chart in the wake of the election, Parler’s hockey stick growth curve has flattened a bit. Parler is still in the App Store’s top 100, but it’s now ranked 81, behind apps such as Chick-fil-A, Tinder, and MeowTalk Cat Translator, an app that uses “machine learning to interpret an individual cat’s meows.”


The startup class of the annus horribilis

For most of us, 2020 will not be on our list of favorite years.

But for some tech entrepreneurs, 2020 will be memorable for more positive reasons. Business Insider rounded up the 100 startups that broke apart from the pack this year. Some of these startups were founded in 2020, others already existed but managed to make important achievements amid the challenges of the pandemic. All showed uncommon grit and adaptability.

The 100 top startups of 2020, according to VCs

top 100 startups 4x3

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider


“The grand bargain business has struck with society isn’t to remain neutral and sell popcorn as the world burns; it’s to do more than merely build shareholder value.”

— David Barrett, CEO of Expensify, in an exclusive op-ed for Business Insider explaining his controversial decision to email 10 million of his customers urging them to vote for Joe Biden.

David_Barrett_Expensify_BI

David Barrett.
David Barrett

The “Star Wars” hotel is not scheduled to open its blast doors until sometime in 2021, but Disney gave Insider a few mock-ups of what the accommodations would look like. The hotel at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is modeled after a galactic starship and guests will check in for a two-day, two-night immersive space cruise.

star wars hotel cabin mockup

David Roark/Disney Parks

The hotel itself never leaves the Earth, but the experience is designed to feel like you’re travelling through space, with “windows” in the cabins providing ever-changing views of the surrounding cosmos and a cast of on-board Star Wars characters affecting what happens during the cruise.

The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, as its known, won’t open until sometime 2021. according to Disney.


Recommended Readings:

EXCLUSIVE: Amazon’s fashion chief told employees that 50 brands have inquired about selling in its new luxury store, as the company tries to shed counterfeit concerns

$12 million startup Modern Health dropped a 102-page report that it says exonerates its CEO over alleged misconduct

Inside Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s quiet agreement with Sundar Pichai that has forced Google’s CEO to distinguish his leadership style

The curious case of Lanistar, a flashy wannabe fintech unicorn hyping itself with branded Bugattis and facing warnings it might be a scam

Nvidia, AMD and Intel are leading an unprecedented $100 billion wave of acquisitions as the cloud and AI change the chip market: ‘The biggest year for consolidation ever’

Inside BuzzFeed and HuffPost’s merger, where talk is turning to who will be HuffPost’s next EIC and what BuzzFeed will buy next


Not necessarily in tech:

How will Biden’s administration impact space investing?

We asked the creator of the first pure-play space ETF, who highlighted the stocks and sectors that could benefit from Democratic policy — and rebound with the coming economic recovery.


OK then, that’ll do it for this week. Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

And as always, please reach out with rants, raves, and tips at aoreskovic@businessinsider.com

— Alexei

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