Snapchat set to raise $31 billion in float

Snap Inc is about to go public. Picture: Richard Drew

THAT app you use to send cheeky photos to your lovers and friends? It’s worth $31 billion, or will be if its IPO goes to plan.

Snap Inc, the company behind Snapchat, is set to float on the stock market on Thursday, in one of the most anticipated initial public offering for a tech company since Facebook and Twitter debuted on the stock market in 2012 and 2013.

The social media company started its official bid to go public in October and seems to have passed its first major test on Wall Street, where it is expected to price its 200 million shares at $US17 each. That’s above the expected range of $US14 to $US16 and values the company at $31 billion ($US24 billion).

The stock will begin trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol, SNAP.


Snap’s Snapchat app is best known for disappearing messages and quirky facial filters for jazzing up selfies. It’s popular with teenagers, celebrities and younger millennials.

While Facebook launched in the era of desktop computers and Twitter in text-based mobile, Snapchat jumped straight to photos and videos.

In a sense, it’s ahead of the game — but its user growth has slowed down since Facebook’s Instagram cloned Snapchat’s “stories” in August.

With the feature, photos and videos shared by users play in a loop for 24 hours, then disappear. Its introduction helped Snapchat recover from stagnant growth before, but now it’s no longer unique to the platform.

After adding 36 million daily active users during the first half of last year, Snapchat picked up just 15 million in the second half.

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, based on an analysis financial advice site ValuePenguin did of activity in Apple’s app store.

Will the novelty of Snapchat filters wear off? Picture: Frank May

Will the novelty of Snapchat filters wear off? Picture: Frank MaySource:Alamy


Snapchat started 2017 with 158 million daily active users, most of whom are people in their teens, 20s and early 30s. But many of them are finding Snapchat harder to fit in with daily life.

Evan Rodriguez, a 20-year old student at Texas Abilene Christian University, used to send snaps of funny stuff he saw throughout the day, just as his friends did.

For instance, he might take video of a friend walking across campus and send it via Snapchat — “Hey, I see you!”

But something about the whole thing “just became cumbersome,” Mr Rodriguez said. “It was like one more thing to do.”

Celia Schlekewey, a 20-year-old University of Washington student who also works at a small business, liked the fact that when she first joined, it was “all just about sending pictures to your friends.”

Over time, the stories feature became a “big deal,” and keeping up with friends and famous people became time-consuming.

“It got to the point that if I wanted to keep up with everyone’s story, I’d have to sit on my phone and watch it for 25 minutes,” she said.

Easing this feeling of pressure will be key for Snapchat, especially if it wants to attract older users.

They might not have as much time — or might not feel like spending that time on social media — as their young millennial counterparts.

Snapchat boss Evan Spiegel has called the venture a “camera company”. Picture: Jae C Hong

Snapchat boss Evan Spiegel has called the venture a “camera company”. Picture: Jae C HongSource:AP


Since Snapchat was never about typing, the phone’s camera is already its main focus. In fact, chief executive Evan Spiegel has taken to calling it a “camera company,” and this is how the company describes itself in its IPO documents.

That doesn’t necessarily just mean that Snap wants to make cameras, though last year it launched Spectacles, actual physical sunglasses that snap photos for you.

Snapchat is more about image-based communication, said Chi-Hua Chien, managing partner at Goodwater Capital, who originated the VC firm Accel Partners’ investment in Facebook and later invested in Twitter while at another firm.

Open the app, and you open a camera. Turn the camera to selfie mode, and you get a bunch of filters to overlay on your face.

Because the images you send eventually disappear, there’s less pressure to put forward your best self.

Snapchat has often drawn comparisons to both Twitter, which also faces stagnant growth, and Facebook, whose users are highly engaged, just like Snapchat’s.

Ultimately, Snap doesn’t have to be like either to succeed and can forge its own path and identity.

LaVon Murphy, 45, a photographer in Portland, Oregon, uses Facebook to keep up with friends, Instagram to express herself through pictures and Twitter to keep up with the news. She added Snapchat recently to stay in touch with her 17-year- old son.

“I don’t really understand why he and his friends use the app so extensively, but I am trying to keep up,” she said.

“It allows me to be silly and show a silly side of myself to my son and it allows him to be silly with me.”

Snap just needs millions more like Murphy willing to make time for yet another social network.

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