Life in Venice

Because Snap does not have a single central campus, as companies like Google or Apple do, employees are dispersed between various buildings in LA’s bohemian, graffiti-specked Venice neighborhood.

The company’s offices are typically converted houses and condos, many just steps from the ocean and outfitted with unisex showers to wash sand off from the beach (Snap is also under investigation by the City of Los Angeles Housing Department for using these beachside homes as offices). Employees can flash their badges to get a free meal at local restaurants, in addition to the free breakfast, lunch, and dinner served at Snap’s cafeteria.

Spiegel rarely addresses the company in all-hands meetings, in sharp contrast to the weekly updates delivered by CEOs of many Silicon Valley tech companies. The most frequent company meetings at Snap involve small groups of employees who gather for “Council” sessions every two weeks. Inspired by Spiegel’s days at LA’s Crossroads prep school (whose alums include Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson), the Council sessions involve everything from gathering in a circle and passing a talking stick to feeding chickens and taking mixology classes.

The company has also held off-sites that include council meetings in teepees where people sit together and quietly eat vegan foods, another former employee explained.

Yet as the company has grown, fewer employees attend councils regularly. One former employee said that the meetings only ostracized those from different backgrounds since the discussions would center around problems that weren’t relatable to others.

“Everybody came from a privileged lifestyle,” said the same former employee who eventually stopped going to the meetings. “I really felt like I was in the wrong fraternity.”

And despite the idyllic oceanfront setting, the scattered offices can also foster a sense of isolation and fiefdom between teams, former employees told Business Insider. If people have to work with multiple teams, like engineering and product design, meetings often entail a 15-minute walk through Venice Beach to get between buildings.

Many employees aren’t even aware where their colleagues or other Snap buildings are located. The only clue that a building belongs to Snap is usually a small ghost — the company’s iconic “Ghostface Chillah” logo — etched onto the front door.

Black cars and shades of yellow

Samantha Lee/Business Insider

When Spiegel travels between his company’s scattered outposts, he normally has a Range Rover with a private driver transport him from building to building. The former employee described it like the president arriving: a black car would pull up and Spiegel would hurriedly pop out with his security detail.

Former employees say that Spiegel, who studied product design at Stanford, spends most of his time in the company’s product design building and runs the company more like a design firm than a typical tech company.

“There were times when we would do PowerPoint presentations, and you literally would spend 50% of the time formatting it,” one of the former executives Business Insider spoke to recounted. “What shade of yellow, that sort of thing.”

Instead of drawing from Silicon Valley’s deep pool of data-obsessed engineers, many Snap employees come from Wall Street or entertainment backgrounds. Others are friends of Spiegel’s from Stanford or Crossroads.

It’s Spiegel who personally drives the company to be constantly iterating. He continues to dictate all product decisions from the top down, even as he’s surrounded himself with an experienced, older executive team.

“Nothing happens there without Evan’s stamp of approval,” said the former exec. “Nothing.”

Still, multiple former and current employees said that Spiegel is rarely spotted around campus. Those who don’t work with him closely on product design report only meeting him once or twice. One engineer who has worked at the company for two years claims never to have seen him in person.

Snap cofounder Bobby Murphy, who is sometimes spotted dining at the cafeteria, is much more approachable, some insiders note.

A Snap office in Venice, Glassdoor.com

Footnotes

[1] What it’s like to work at Snap, one of the most secretive companies in tech

“What does Snapchat’s office look like” originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Danica Orr