Snap Inc., parent company of ephemeral photo-sharing and messaging app Snapchat, has filed for a $3 billion initial public offering of its stock on the New York Stock Exchange in March.
The filing did not price the shares in the offering of the Venice business, which describes itself as a camera company in its SEC document, though it had been rumored that it was seeking a $25 billion valuation.
The much-anticipated event is likely to be the largest tech stock offering this year and is the largest in the history of the L.A. tech industry. It would also vault the company, co-founded in 2011 by Evan Spiegel, its chief executive, and Bobby Murphy, its chief technology officer, into the No. 5 spot of largest public companies in Los Angeles, ranked by market cap if it hit that $25 billion mark.
The stunning rise would value the company ahead of established local companies Edison International, CBRE Group Inc., Mattel Inc., Lions Gate Entertainment, Aecom, and Herbalife.
It will also create a new class of very wealthy Angelenos. Spiegel and Murphy both hold 113 million shares of the company’s Class A common stock, about 22 percent of the float. They also each hold more than 107 million shares of preferred Class C stock. Class C shares, which Murphy and Spiegel control entirely, carry 10 votes for to each common share’s vote.
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Spiegel and Murphy’s 22 percent share of the company, which can be expected to rise in value as investors rush to buy shares when the offering becomes effective, is worth $5.45 billion at a $25 billion valuation.
What’s more, the offering document says Spiegel will receive another 3 percent of company shares, which at a $25 billion valuation would be worth $750 million, for the successful offering. Already on last year’s list of Wealthiest Angelenos with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion, Spiegel would have a net worth of $6.2 billion, sending him to No. 7 on the Business Journal’s list of Wealthiest Angelenos.
Murphy would jump 26 spots to rank eighth. The pair, still in their 20s, would move ahead of Wonderful Co. founders Stewart and Lynda Resnick, media mogul Haim Saban, and developer Rick Caruso in the rankings.
Other key insider shareholders are Timothy Sehn, Snap’s vice president of engineering, who holds 3.4 million shares; Chief Strategy Officer Imran Khan, with more than 1.4 million shares; and Michael Lynton, the former Sony Entertainment chief executive who stepped aside earlier this year to devote himself to his post as Snap’s chairman. He holds 1.5 million shares.
The largest institutional shareholders are Benchmark Capital Partners, which holds 65.8 million shares (12.7 percent) of common stock, and Lightspeed Venture Partners, with 43.3 million shares (8.3 percent).
Snap’s valuation is based largely on the perceived worth of the Snapchat’s youthful audience, which is enticing to advertisers. In September, it was reported that Snapchat had 150 million daily active users; the company said in March that about 23 percent of its daily active users fell between the ages of 13 and 18. The company reported in its filing on Thursday that its daily active user count is now 158 million. Some 27 percent of its users are between the ages of 25 to 34. The second most represented age group, those ages 13 to 17, account for 22 percent of the app’s user base.
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Snap generated $405 million in revenue in 2016, an 586 percent increase from the $59 million it saw in 2015. It posted losses of $373 million and $515 million in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Those number compare to the $367 million in 2016 advertising revenue and nearly $1 billion in 2017 that eMarketer projected last year that Snapchat would post.
Since its founding, the company has raised more than $2.6 billion in venture capital, according to Crunchbase. It closed a $1.8 billion Series F round in May that included investors such as General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, T. Rowe Price, Lone Pine, Glade Brook Capital, IVP, Coatue Management, and Fidelity investments, among others, according to TechCrunch. Snap has $987 million in cash on hand as of Dec. 31.
Snap’s overall revenue and profit numbers ahead of its IPO are significantly lower than those of Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc. (formerly Google Inc.) at the time their respective initial offerings.
Alphabet, which went public in August 2004, raising $1.67 billion at a valuation of more than $23 billion, had revenues of $962 million and made $106 million in profit. Facebook, which had the third-largest IPO of all time with a $16 billion raise and $104 billion valuation, was event further advanced; the company had more than $3.7 billion in revenue and earned $1 billion in the year before it went public.
Snap’s pre-IPO balance sheet looks more in line with a third tech unicorn, albeit one the company might not invite comparisons to: Twitter Inc. Twitter’s SEC filings ahead of its November 2013 IPO showed the company had $317 million in revenue and a net loss of $79 million. While Twitter’s IPO was by some measures the most successful of three – its stock price rose 73 percent on its first trading day, raising $1.8 billion at a valuation of $24 billion – the company’s stock has since dived.
Snapchat, originally named Picaboo, was dreamed up in the spring of 2011 by Spiegel and fellow Stanford Kappa Sigma fraternity brother Reggie Brown. The pair brought on another frat brother, Bobby Murphy, now the company’s chief technology officer, to help develop the app at the Pacific Palisades home of Spiegel’s father that summer. Spiegel was 20 years old at the time.
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Relations between the startup founders became fraught after a few months, however, and Brown was pushed from the company in the fall of that that year. Brown alleged in a lawsuit filed in 2013 – when the startup had reached a valuation of $800 million – that he overheard Spiegel and Murphy plotting to oust him and deny him equity and credit for his role inventing the app. Brown kept extensive notes, text messages, and pictures from his time at Snapchat, which he presented as evidence in court.
Brown, claiming he was the rightful owner one-third of the startup’s equity, settled with Snapchat $157.5 million in 2014, according to the filing, along with an acknowledgement that he had conceived of the idea for the ephemeral messaging app.
It was not the only legal hurdle Snap ran into. As word leaked out the company was preparing to file for an initial offering last year, lawsuits flooded in. The company was sued by several parties over the Snapchat app’s underlying intellectual property; by a former head of user growth; and for exposing minors to explicit material via the app’s Discover feature.
Staff reporters Jonathan Diamond, Henry Meier, Garrett Reim, Omar Shamout, and Daina Beth Solomon contributed to this report.
Edit: This story has been edited to add updated information.
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