Rumors are circulating that Snapchat, which recently rebranded as Snap Inc., is moving forward with plans for an initial public offering as soon as March, which could value the disappearing messaging platform at as much as $25 billion — more than the $17 billion it was said to be worth in a May funding round.
“Snap is smoking hot right now as a brand and a platform that can reach the elusive Millennial audience, so why not cash in? Why not go get the money to do all the enhancements they want while they can?” said Forrester analyst Julie Ask. “It’s a hot brand and hot space with few barriers to entry, though being successful is hard. Few companies like this are even close to profitable when they IPO.”
Word of a possible Snap IPO was reported by the Wall Street Journal Thursday afternoon.
In the past couple years, Snapchat has quickly ramped up the pace and scope of its advertising offerings, with fashion and media brands jumping on options such as sponsored lenses, appearances in Live Stories and geotagging. Snapchat reportedly has expected revenues of up to $366 million in 2016, but it is not known if the company is profitable. The company is also starting to expand into new areas, such as glasses that take video, dubbed Spectacles.
Snap tends to be rather secretive, with a casual, cool ethos that befits its Venice, Calif., location, but an IPO would force the company to increase its transparency with Wall Street.
In a post on the Snap blog, chief executive officer Evan Spiegel nodded to this culture: “Changing our name also has another benefit: when you search for our products [sic] it will be easier to find relevant product information rather than boring company information or financial analysis. You can search Snapchat or Spectacles for the fun stuff and leave Snap Inc. for the Wall Street crowd :)”
Brian Sugar, ceo of PopSugar Inc. said: “It’s hard to pinpoint Snapchat’s estimated valuation but we do see PopSugar’s Snapchat audience growing really fast, indicative of our audience actively using and engaging with it. We are also seeing fashion and beauty brands and ShopStyle Collective influencers readily adopting our product, Emoticode, which adds links to Snapchat to make it shoppable. Snapchat is a hot platform that’s extremely relevant and fun for Millennials and Gen Z.”
According to eMarketer, Snapchat has 100 million users, more U.S. users than Twitter or Pinterest, and ad sales that are expected to reach $935 million next year.
“To get cash to continue to develop the platform and products, they have to raise it privately or through an IPO, if possible,” Ask said. “If the founders want liquidity for all their employees, and think the public markets will value them more,” then the thinking is to go public, she said.
In 2013, Spiegel refused a $3 billion offer from Facebook to buy the company — a move that was viewed as extremely bold at the time and now looks wise.
It’s not the only tech darling that might go public.
Speculation has also become heated that Pinterest is gearing up for an IPO after its appointment this week of Todd Morgenfeld as the company’s first chief financial officer, who was poached from Twitter. Pinterest is valued at about $11 billion. Other San Francisco billion-dollar tech companies being watched are Uber, valued at $68 billion, and Airbnb, valued at $25.5 billion. Those can’t top Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, whose 2014 IPO valued the company at $168 billion.
And Twitter also appears to be at a turning point in its corporate life. However, it’s a tenuous time for the microblogging company, which is said to be looking for a buyer and has struggled to keep its user growth in line with expectations. Salesforce, which is cloud-based customer relationship management software provider that recently bought e-commerce platform Demandware, is said to be looking at the company, as are Disney and others. Twitter’s IPO in 2013 valued the company at $14.2 billion, and it is rumored to be for sale for anywhere from $18 billion to $30 billion.