‘How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story’
Billy Gallagher, St. Martin’s, 287 pages, $26.99.
Former TechCrunch writer Billy Gallagher’s sweeping book “How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story” traces the saga of the multibillion-dollar company whose product nobody older than millennial age seemingly understands or uses. As with most startup histories, this one is largely a biography of the company’s founder, and Gallagher indulges in small bits of hero worship. Snap founder Evan Spiegel is introduced as a man who, with an upbringing and constitution uniquely suited to the zeitgeist, stared into the hearts and minds of American teenagers and concocted the billion-dollar product that they never knew they needed. Fortunately for the reader and Silicon Valley history, Gallagher knows this species of techie too well to construct too high a pedestal. Nor does the book skimp on the sordid details of Snapchat’s founding and the intracompany hostility between the co-founders that ended up in an embarrassing lawsuit, when Snapchat was valued at $1 billion, and a settlement for the co-founder at the center of said drama. Still, this is much more than mere human drama and tabloid gossip with some tech packaging on it. The stories about the birthing pains of what became Snapchat are where the book shines. Gallagher takes you as close as you can get to the startup roller coaster without coding a mobile app and raising venture funding yourself.