Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says letter about ‘toxic’ culture was a wake-up call

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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel spoke a bit about some of the cultural issues at the company, going public and competition with Facebook at Recode’s annual Code Conference this evening in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Earlier today, Cheddar reported how a former Snap engineer criticized the company for a “toxic” and “sexist” culture that is not welcoming to women and people of color. In an email former Snap engineer Shannon Lubetich wrote in November, she described how Snap is not adequately promoting diversity at the company.

“The letter was a really good wake-up call for us,” Spiegel said.

Spiegel described how, in light of the letter, Snap hired external consultants to help the company figure out areas in which to improve. Snap also ran a company-wide survey and changed its promotion structure, Spiegel said. He later added that he’s “proud” of the progress Snap has made over the last few months.

In the letter, Lubetich also described a scenario in which scantily clad women, hired by Snap, dressed up in deer costumes.

“People are going to make mistakes and I was frustrated, to say the least, to see people dressed up as deer at a holiday party,” Spiegel said.

In addition to cultural issues, Snap has also struggled on the public market. Snap’s Q1 2018 earnings, for example, showed lackluster user growth numbers amid a rocky redesign and increased competition from Facebook. Still, Spiegel said the redesign was the right way to go, as was going public.

“I think this was the logical step forward in being an independent company,” Spiegel said about going public.

Meanwhile, Snap is constantly fending off competition from Facebook. Spiegel initially joked, “I think it bothers my wife more than it bothers me.”

But in all seriousness, Spiegel said Snap’s values of deepening relationships with the people closest to you is “really hard to copy.” Facebook, on the other hand, is more about having people compete online for attention, Spiegel said.

He also joked, in light of Cambridge Analytica scandal, that Snap would “appreciate it if [Facebook] copied our data protection practices as well.”

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