How Snapchat Became a Social Media Unicorn (Infographics)

Only 5 percent of the fast-growing, high-valuation startups are social, and Snapchat is at the very top.

Snapchat has been a disruptive force in social media, with many competitors trying to offer similar features as users flock to the service. Snapchat also seems to be on the verge of going mainstream. Data from Alexa examines Snapchat’s ascent and how “unicorn startups” are changing.

In the tech world, unicorns are private startups that reach at least a $1 billion valuation. E-commerce has the most unicorns, with 25 percent of the total pool, while 18 percent are in internet software and services and just 5 percent are in social media. No social media unicorn seems to get more attention than Snapchat, which was recently valued at $16 billion.


Snapchat started out by capturing the attention of younger users, particularly teens, but it has grown significantly as it has attracted mass attention. In July 2015, Snapchat hosted #Mecca_Live, and increased its Alexa ranking by 10 percent, and then an article in The New York Times in December brought a 35 percent increase.


Snapchat’s growth will likely continue as it establishes itself as a social media power player, but unicorns seem to have increased in number across most industries. Unique visitors to Elon Musk‘s private space exploration firm, SpaceX, grew at a rate of 226 percent. Many technology and software companies–including retinal scan tech company Magic Leap and cloud and e-commerce company Deem–also experienced impressive growth in visitor rates.



However, achieving unicorn status isn’t enough to ensure long-term survival. Visitors to fantasy sports competition site FanDuel dropped 84 percent, and visitors to a similar service called DraftKings decreased 68 percent. This could be because the football season has ended, or because these sites were banned as online gambling services.

Snapchat seems to have fought through most of the early issues encountered by unicorn startups, and it looks to be on the road to sustainable success. But in order to stay on top, Snapchat–and any fast-growing startup–needs to keep a tight focus or risk delivering a forgettable and useful product or service.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.