Are flashy brands like Snapchat really worth investing in?

Are flashy brands like Snapchat really worth investing in?

CultureJuly 28, 2017 By Brian Frederick

This past May, High times Holding Corp., the very company that produces the iconic magazine and yearly cannabis competitions, sold to an investment group named Oreva Capital for a whopping $70 million. Just two short months later, while appearing to not do much more than bring in Damian Marley (Bob Marley’s son) to the table, it now says it’s worth $250 million — and plans to go public to be traded on NASDAQ sometime later this year.

Sound crazy, but this isn’t your grandfather’s market anymore. It’s not that uncommon for companies to come out of the gates with bloated valuations, some collecting the numbers without even turning a profit. For Tyler Troup, Managing Director of Circadian Group and owner of The Cannabis Investor on Facebook — the largest cannabis investing community on social media — the news isn’t unheard of, however, and is actually par for the course in many cases.

“The step up in valuation is in line with a private to public transaction,” Troup says. “Two-hundred and fifty million for a dominant leader in an industry is fairly reasonable, especially considering it appears to be under monetized — similar to Facebook before they rolled out their full advertising model — as well as the huge amounts of value that the syndicate of private equity players who purchased them in February for what I heard was around $45 million.”

He adds the syndicate partnered with a lot of smart people, including Stony Hill (OTCQB: STNY), which brings in “development expertise as well as the celebrity of their largest shareholder Damien Marley.”

“They are the number one name in cannabis culture, bar none,” adds Troup “I remember being a kid seeing the magazine, they have a hold on the media. I think what you’re seeing is the thoughts on future earnings potential. Before it was more of a hippie-type of outlet, now they are going to monetize that — that in and of itself creates a ton of value.”

So it’s not that they signed millions more subscribers to the magazine or stumbled upon a reserve of gold bars in the basement or anything, it’s that the players in the game now have more to offer and are valuing the company on future potential.

Therein lies the risk (and sometimes, huge reward) for a lot of “millennial-type” stocks hitting the market lately. They all want to be the next Facebook — arguably one of the biggest company success stories of the past 200 or so years — in the quest for stability, purpose and most importantly, profit.

Though some of those flashy brands aren’t quite keeping up with the hype …

Snapchat (SNAP)

One of the year’s most exciting IPOs is finally here aaaaaaaand now it’s gone. Initially coming out of the gates strong at a whopping (and highly questionable) $33 billion valuation (and a $24 stock price), the “camera company” has lately found itself treading water. Currently the price is floating (as of press time) around the $13.80 mark — a 42.5 percent loss from its first day trading *whomp whomp*.

The immediate future doesn’t look so hot either, as a mandated lock-up period is about to expire. That means early adopters and employees who have had to hold stock for 90 days can now sell it if they want to — historically a bad thing for companies that aren’t holding up to expectations.

Blue Apron (APRN)

You know who's king of the world right now? Jeff Bezos, he started Amazon, and he's completely altering the way humans exist forever. And along with that much power is the ability to take other successful companies and run them into the ground. Like with Blue Apron, a company that basically just ships food to your house in a box. Its model hasn't worked out so well. Down 32 percent from it's initial public offering in late June, Blue Apron has had executive shift-arounds, plummeting share prices and Amazon announcing it will do the same thing Blue Apron is only cheaper and more efficiently. 

Bottom line, if a company doesn't have something proprietary to offer (other than, say, driving a box to someone's house with food in it), chances are bigger fish will come along one day and gulp it completely. "You know, Peter Thiel always says that second mover advantage is sometimes the greater advantage," says Troup. "If someone’s doing something first, you find a way to do it better. Sort of like how Instagram beat out Snapchat quite handily with the rollout of their stories.”

Twitter (TWTR)

Likely the one stock that got younger generations interested in brokers more than anything else was the announcement Twitter was accepting investors. Why? Because the get-rich-quick story of Facebook had already played out, up 100 percent since its initial offering by the time Twitter went public in November of 2013. Twitter was looking like the next social media giant to turn a quick buck in that same vein.

And it didn’t do so bad for initial investors overall, spiking up 53 percent in its first couple of months. But long holders eventually watched it go down, down, down, losing over half of its valuation in the years following. With no real pipeline in sight, and falling well below its projected earnings recently, there’s not much meat left to eat in hopes it’ll take off anytime soon. Not even Trump’s made-for-Twitter real-life reality show can save it.

Roku (n/a)

Roku’s kind of interesting, if not downright fascinating. Wanting to IPO by 2017’s end, the company has already hired Morgan Stanley and Citigroup to manage its offering — with a projected valuation of close to $1 billion. Seeking Alpha alludes to the sky-high price as being part of the "unicorn bubble" — or a company that’s way overvalued at the onset of its stock being public which can lead to catastrophic effects shortly thereafter.

Why it’s interesting — yet still sketchy as hell — is because research firm eMarketer says it will finish 2017 with over 38.9 million customers, surpassing the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple in the space, and holding more than 23 percent of the market share (the highest).

“As the only major market participant not affiliated with a content or TV device platform, Roku has used its neutrality to strike deals with a wide range of partners, including smart TV makers, over-the-top (OTT) service providers and social media companies,” says Paul Verna, principal video analyst at eMarketer. “That expansive strategy, combined with the company’s broad selection of connectivity devices at various price points, has put Roku at the head of the pack.”

The downside lies in the company’s ability to expand further, and the potential for it to fall into the same narrative as Snapchat and Blue Apron (and even GoPro). It’s a hardware company, after all, and without the ability to compete with places like Netflix and Amazon with original programming, and the fact electronics are a dime a dozen now, Roku’s path isn’t an easy one — but a profitable one can the company make it work.

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For a substantial look into IPOs and what they can historically mean for your hard earned money, head over to Jay Ritter’s site. He’s served as a Joseph B. Cordell Eminent Scholar in the Department of Finance at the University of Florida since 1996, and breaks down (although rather technically) what it is you can expect when your favorite companies go public or have already gone public. It's your money, make it work for you, not against.