This morning, Snap Inc. went public with a market valuation of around $33 billion. To put this ridiculous amount of money into laymen terms, that's the ability to buy 33 billion items off the dollar menu. Even crazier, it's the same valuation given to Marriott and Target, two companies much more established than Snap Inc. How this valuation came to be is a lesson in how to sell a ketchup popsicle to a lady in white gloves who’s diabetic. Goldman Sach’s and Morgan Stanley orchestrated the deal and will most certainly walk away with a few more beach houses in the Hamptons.
But what’s amazing, when you look at the company’s user metrics and financials, everything points to a company on the decline. Which means, this is the best time to IPO and sell shares. Snap’s IPO is nothing more than a cash cow that’s been slowly prepared for slaughter over the last three years. Today it got slaughtered, and sure enough, the farmer(s) made tons of money.
In 2016, Snapchat lost $515 million even though it increased revenue by almost sevenfold. Take that in for a minute: it still lost money even though it increased revenue 700 percent! But maybe it has an unbelievable amount of user growth which would certainly justify future growth and a valuation of such a high number. But that’s not the case. In the last quarter of 2016, Snapchat saw user growth slow by 50 percent from 36 million new users down to 15 million new users. Even more bothersome, an analysis of Apple’s app store by financial site ValuePenguin found that the number of people downloading Instagram’s app has been accelerating during the past six months, suggesting a gradual shift away from the Snapchat app.
Let’s recap: Snapchat is losing money, losing users and losing downloads. It’s “proprietary” app features are easily adaptive by Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp, which are both seeing faster growth and most advertisers on Snap’s platform have yet to sign contracts. Yet the company is valued at a dizzying $20 billion dollars. So who benefits from this?
According to Marketwatch.com, the founders of the company and early investors stand to make nearly $1 billion from this deal by selling their shares. Co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy will bring in about $272 million each for selling their shares. Early investor firms, Benchmark Capital Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners will bring in $181 million and $78.8 million respectively.
How does a company that’s losing money and popularity turn around and produce a billion-dollar nest egg for all of the early investors and the founders? Simple, Wall Street’s lost its path. What was once a market for raising funds for businesses to grow and prosper, Wall Street is now a pit of greedy bastards trying to find the next big arbitrage opportunity whether it be sub-prime loan garbage or a company high on everyone’s radar yet destined for mediocrity. Companies are going public not because they’re much but because they’re popular. Entrepreneurs have forgotten what it means to be a customer-centric business and why they got into business in the first place. Investors are running the show and once they make their money, they disappear faster than a Snapchat photo.