Snap Inc., the developer of the millennial obsession Snapchat, is gearing up to be the biggest Initial Public Offering of the social media generation since Twitter went public in 2013. There are talks of a $22 billion valuation, but will investors flock to a company that established its brand through nudie pics, rainbow vomit and animal masks?
Snapchat is the perfect fit for those who donated to Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, Adam Sandler cinephiles and currency pyromaniacs. Basically, Snapchat is the company for people who just hate money. According to its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Snapchat is losing money and losing it fast. In fairness, its year-to-year revenue has skyrocketed by 590 percent; from $58.7 million in 2015 to $404.5 million in 2016. However, its expenses at seven and a half times as much as revenue in 2015, jumps an additional 110 percent. This led to the company losing over half a billion ($520 million) in 2016. There is some hope, as its expenses grew at a much slower rate than its revenues.
People who desire being punched in the throat should flock to Snapchat. Snap Inc. is only selling non-voting class A shares, which would only entitle you to dividends from future profits, no vote and no voice. For a company that is still operating at a loss, the lack of power, however minimal, should raise concern. The direction of the company still remains solely in the hands of the co-founders, CEO Edward Speigel and COO Robert Murphy, and this means a higher level of risk due to lack of shareholder involvement. As retail asteroid Sears Holding Corp. has proven, a consolidation of power can prove to be a costly mistake.
Lastly, Snapchat has become the Britney Spears of the social media world. It never seems to change. Unlike Britney, this isn’t good. Snapchat, since the addition of stories, seems to only make cosmetic changes for the app and doesn’t expand its capabilities and properties like other social media companies would. For example, Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, and Instagram has since introduced messaging, videos, stories, etc. My prediction is Instagram will push Snapchat into the dustbin if Instagram continues to add Snapchat’s capabilities and Snapchat doesn’t expand in the social media world.
The key words in the previous statement are “in the social media world.” Snap has bought a company that produces smart glasses and has developed its own brand of smart glasses called Spectacles with wearable cameras capable of recording 10-second videos. In its S1 filing, it claims to be a camera company. This shows a lack of direction: is it a social media company, determined to connect people to each other? Or is it a hardware company determined to provide people the tools to create? If it’s the latter, it needs to expand its product line, much like Kanye needs to do if he wants to be President in 2020. (I am waiting for your policy position on currency modernization, Mr. West.) Snap Inc. needs to make a decision. It cannot survive as the Justin Bieber of the social media world. (Seriously, is he a corporate pop artist? Serious intellectual? Rodeo Clown? DECIDE ALREADY!!!)
All jokes aside, Snap’s leaders are saying the company is worthy of approximately $22 billion in investor funds. They say this when they don’t have yearly revenues of even half a billion. They say this when they lose more than that in a single year when revenue skyrockets. They say this when they have no plans for ceding any control over the company. They say this when they can’t decide what kind of company they are. They say all of this with a straight face, so I say this with a straight face: Do not buy.