Snap CEO Evan Spiegel came out swinging against Facebook during his fireside chat at Recode’s Code Conference in Southern California Tuesday, hitting the bigger competitor on issues like privacy and Russian interference.
“We’d appreciate it if they copied our data protection practices also,” Spiegel said when asked about Facebook copying core Snapchat features like Stories. “It’s important to remember that there was no Russian manipulation of data on Snapchat,” he added.
He also argued that Snapchat was ultimately more than the sum of its features. “Our values are actually really hard to copy,” he said. What was unique about the company was its sharp focus on empowering its members to express themselves.
Spiegel used his fireside chat to defended his approach to product design, arguing that he’d prefer to release a product if the underlying thesis is right rather than spend a lot of time testing. “If we believe that a reason is sound, we are willing to push out the product,” he said. “If we lean too heavily on data, we just wait and wait and wait.”
Those comments came in response to reports blaming Spiegel’s management style for the company’s struggles with its recent redesign, which resulted in a user revolt, and forced the company to roll back some key design decisions. Asked about those struggles, Spiegel defended the core idea of separating private communications from interactions with celebrities, but acknowledged that the company had to work on its execution.
He also acknowledged that he had underestimated how investors would react to these changes. “It requires a bit more grit,” he said about the difference between running a public and a private company. At the same time, he defended Snap’s decision to go public as the better alternative to selling the company: “It was the logical step for us.”
Spiegel was also asked about Snap’s company culture in the wake of a report about an internal email that had criticized the company for not caring enough about diversity and inclusion. “That was really a wake-up call for us,” he said about the letter, which was penned by a former engineer on her last day with the company.
He went on to say that he was “proud of the progress” the company was making on this front. Earlier on Tuesday, the company told Cheddar that only 13% of its engineering roles were filled with women.
Spiegel’s appearance at the conference came at a critical time for the company: Both the botched redesign and stagnating growth have spooked investors, and a recent underwhelming Q1 earnings report didn’t help to soothe their nerves. As a result, Snap’s share price is now hovering around $10.50, down $6.50 from the company’s IPO price a little over a year ago.
On Tuesday, Spiegel said that investors were often worried about short-term trends. One example he pointed to was the transition from direct ad sales to programmatic, which drove down the price of individual ads but ultimately helped the company to sell a lot more inventory. “To me, it teaches the importance of having that long-term conviction,” he said.