Silicon Valley and Wall Street have been salivating for Snap Inc., which owns SnapChat, to go public — and the company says today that it plans to do so with a preliminary proxy proposing to raise $3 billion.
The plan would create three classes of stock, enabling CEO Evan Spiegel and CTO Robert Murphy, both co-founders, to retain control. The IPO would sell non-voting Class A shares to the public.
Sony Entertainment’s Michael Lynton is chairman of the board and plans to leave Sony to focus on Snap. He chairs the Snap board’s Compensation Committee and sits on the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee.
The filing shows that the company has 158 million daily active users. It lost $514.6 million last year on revenues of $404.5 million. It also ended the year with a deficit of $1.2 billion.
Almost all of its revenues come from ad sales on Snapchat.
Snap began its commercial operation in 2011 and “began meaningfully monetizing Snapchat in 2015,” it says. As a result “investors’ future perceptions and expectations, which can be idiosyncratic and vary widely, and which we do not control, will affect our stock price.”
The company also notes that “no other company has completed an initial public offering of non-voting stock on a U.S. Stock exchange.”
Snapchat enables mobile users to transmit images, video and text that self-destruct in 10 seconds or less. Many users enjoy transforming images with what Snapchat calls its “lenses.”
Media companies including CNN, Vice, ESPN and Food Network also have used Snapchat’s Discover channels to offer videos and headlines to fans.
Snap describes itself in the IPO as a “camera company,” adding that the reinvention of the device “represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way that people live and communicate.”
The company believes that the camera screen “will be the starting point for most products on smartphones. This is because images created by smartphone cameras contain more context and richer information than other forms of input like text entered on a keyboard. This means we are willing to take risks in an attempt to create innovative and different camera products that are better able to reflect and improve our life experiences.”
The founders see a big opportunity due to “the shift of people’s attention from their televisions to their mobile phones.” Those between 18 and 24 “spent 35% less time watching traditional (live and time-shifted) television in an average month” in last year’s Q2 vs the same period in 2010.
Late last year, MoffettNathanson Research’s Michael Nathanson said that he hears two schools of thought about Snapchat: “The bulls believe Snapchat has been incredibly disruptive, particularly among younger demos, in taking engagement share from core Facebook. On the other hand, bears say that Snapchat’s core audience is incredibly fickle, spends much less money than Facebook’s audience and isn’t guaranteed to remain on Snapchat five years from now.”