Crazy? Arrogant? Entitled? Snapchat Chief Executive Evan Spiegel told USC graduates that he's been called all that and worse.
However people want to criticize him, Spiegel said that he's only being human. In a commencement address Friday, he urged the class of 2015 at the USC Marshall School of Business to not fear being a voice of dissent.
"The things that makes us human are those times we listen to the whispers of our soul and allow ourselves to be pulled in another direction," said Spiegel, dressed in a black gown before about 1,000 students neatly arranged on USC's basketball court.
Spiegel smiled sheepishly when Marshall School Dean James Ellis reminded students that when they started at USC, at about the same time that Snapchat launched in 2011, their addiction was Facebook, and now they leave USC with Snapchat as the app they constantly have to check.
Snapchat's main function lets users share photos, videos and text that disappear a few seconds after they're viewed. They also have access to stories from media organizations and user-generated stories from around the world.
In 2013, Spiegel rejected offers of billions of dollars from Facebook to acquire Snapchat, a social media app that now has more than 100 million users and a reputed valuation of $15 billion. Critics still blast him as "arrogant" and "entitled" for not selling and retiring to a boat, he said. But Spiegel told students that being offered money to give up something you cherish is the fastest way to gauge whether what you're undertaking is important.
"If you sell, you will know that it wasn't the right dream anyway," he said. "If you don't sell, you are probably onto … the beginning of something meaningful."
People might eventually usurp what you've built, Spiegel said, but the "best thing we can do is build the best possible foundation for those who come after us."
"In times of despair, you may believe the cynic who tells you that one person cannot make a difference," he said. "Please voice your dissent, anticipate your erasure and please find something you aren't willing to sell."
Spiegel, who turns 25 next month, dropped out of Stanford University a few credits shy of graduation in 2012. He crossed the stage at his own commencement ceremony, but only to pick up an empty folder. The absurdity of his charade, which the school allowed, occurred to him only recently, he said. He felt embarrassed and didn't want to feel left out.
After his speech, Spiegel hugged Ellis and walked off the stage — once again without an expensive piece of paper.