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Snap's CEO calls reaction to app redesign a learning experience

Evan Spiegel says he underestimated the reaction.

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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says he underestimated investors' reaction to a poorly received app redesign.

Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Evan Spiegel says he's learned from the negative reception to a recent redesign of his company's chat app.

Snap, the company behind the social media network, began rolling out new features late last year and early this year to try to make Snapchat more personalized. What the company ended up with was major social media influencers like Kylie Jenner expressing disappointment with the app, directly contributing to a 7.2 percent drop in the company's share price and wiping about $1 billion off the company's market value.

The negative reaction caught the Spiegel off-guard, the Snap chief executive said Tuesday during an appearance at Recode's Code Conference, which is being held this week in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

"One thing I underestimated at the time was how it would much it would impact our investors," Spiegel said. "They just could not comprehend why we would totally change our product and redesign the service. For me, that was a really great lesson because it teaches the importance of having that long-term vision, even though it's going to surprise people, even though it's going to make people feel uncomfortable."

The company's $24 billion IPO in March has also been a learning experience for Spiegel, who says being a public company "requires a bit more grit than being a private company."

"When you're a private company, you can sort of smooth out the ups and downs," he said. "The more important thing for us is building that muscle of not putting numbers before doing the right thing."

With all the company introspection Spiegel was doing Tuesday evening, he did manage to get a dig in at social media rival Facebook, which has been grappling with a scandal over misuse of its user data.

When asked how he feels about competitors copying his app's features, he was a little charitable.

"People are going to continue to follow the innovations that we've created," he said. "As a designer, if you've created something so simple and elegant that the only thing people can do is copy it exactly.

"We'd really appreciate it if they copied our data protection too."

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