Snap shares began trading more than 40% higher than its original IPO price this morning — opening at $24 per share — as the company made its debut as a publicly-traded company on the NYSE.
After months of hand-wringing, Snap’s IPO has now set the stage for not just what people will be expecting for the future of its business. Snap’s performance this morning is also setting the stage for what investors and Wall Street will be looking for at tech IPOs moving forward this year. For the company, it was important to ensure that its shares see a healthy pop to set the tone moving forward — and ensure everyone makes money.
Snap priced at $17 yesterday, giving it a valuation of nearly $24 billion. As expected, this price was above the original range it set earlier in February as the company and Wall Street split the difference on where Snap should be valued. Snap raised $3.4 billion in its IPO, giving it plenty of capital going forward to grow despite its rapidly-growing costs.
After opening at $24, Snap shares briefly went as high as $25, but have since been trading somewhere in that range. That price values Snap at more than $30 billion. By comparison, Twitter is worth around $11 billion.
Achieving this pop and still ensuring that it was a successful IPO is not always so simple. Multiple reports indicated that demand for Snap’s IPO heavily outstripped the shares it was offering. Snap could raise more money, but it also needs to make sure the stock jumps on day one like it did today — both for being perceived a a successful IPO, and to ensure that everyone is getting paid.
Opening at $24, however, means that Snap may have left a lot of money on the table. The distance between the IPO range and the debut range for the 200 million shares it offered is more than $1 billion. Still, it at least means that Snap’s IPO will be perceived as a very successful one.
Snap’s IPO today is still an unusual one. Investors buying shares in its IPO are buying non-voting shares for the company. That means that they are essentially buying into the hope that Snap will eventually grow into a huge company, and are playing the long game that CEO Evan Spiegel and his team know what they are doing. Spiegel and co-founder Bobby Murphy have pretty much complete control over voting shares of the company — so for the most part it really won’t be beholden to Wall Street, though a good stock price is always helpful for recruiting and employee morale.
At its heart, IPOs are as much about raising money to build up a war chest as they are for liquidation and publicity events. Snap spends hundreds of millions of dollars running its business, including a $1 billion contract with Amazon and a $2 billion contract with Google that will both be paid out over the course of five years. Snap is also pretty aggressive on the acquisition front, which means it needs a lot of capital to continue buying up startups.
The remaining question, going forward, is whether Snap can deliver the same kind of performance that Facebook has — or if it ends up like Twitter, stalling out and watching its stock tank going forward. Snap’s user growth is stalling, though its advertising business is growing at a very fast pace. It’ll have to continue beating what Wall Street is expecting on a regular basis if it’s going to demonstrate that it’s going to be a legitimate competitor with Facebook.
Now that Snap is a publicly-traded company, it’s essentially wedging its way into being in more overt direct competition for advertising dollars. Snap, like many startups, has had to make the jump from a curiosity in advertisers’ innovation budgets to more mainstays by offering something that Facebook didn’t. And it looks like Wall Street is going to give the company a pass on all its concerns about user growth and tricky stock structure for now and jump in for the long haul.