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SNAP’S ROADSHOW: Snapchat executives explain why investors should buy into their $22 billion IPO

Alex Heath
Screen Shot 2017 02 17 at 10.54.58 AM


Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.

Snap Inc. has released its full IPO roadshow.

In a 35-minute video, Snap executives break down their company philosophy, how the Snapchat app works, and their ad products. The video is narrated by Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, CTO Bobby Murphy, CSO Imran Khan, and CFO Drew Vollero.

Snap is the most highly-anticipated tech IPO in years, and it’s planning to go public on March 1 at a valuation of $22 billion.

We watched Snap’s full roadshow video and have collected all the highlights for you. Here’s the abridged version:

“Snap is a camera company,” begins Spiegel. “We feel like we’re really at the beginning of what cameras can do.”

“Before, cameras were the perfect way to save or record something you saw. And they sort of helped augment memory. But now cameras augment the way that we talk.”

Spiegel compares Snapchat’s camera to a mouse cursor on a desktop computer. “With Snapchat, the camera has become the primary input for the phone.”

“I think Snapchat really tapped into that human desire to communicate in a way that feels like it’s face-to-face, even if you’re far away,” says Spiegel.

Snap’s roadshow video was shot inside its original headquarters off the Venice Beach boardwalk in California.

“Our dream had always been to have an office on the beach.”

“Everyone thought of cameras as a way to save important memories,” but Snapchat is about “delete by default,” says Spiegel. “We find that conversation is more comfortable and more familiar and natural when it deletes by default.”

“That’s why people love creating Snaps, because there isn’t pressure to feel pretty or perfect… It’s about being able to communicate how you feel and in the moment.”

Snapchat’s “Stories” format was a “response to social media at the time.” Social feeds were all organized in reverse-chronological order. “You were always scrolling backwards through a story, and that didn’t make sense to us.”

Snap cofounder and CTO Bobby Murphy makes several appearances in the video. He and Spiegel will have full voting control over Snap’s shares once it goes public.

“Just about everything in the app is ordered around content creation,” says Murphy. 60% of Snapchat’s 158 million daily users create content in the app every day.

Snapchat says its creative tools are key to its success. Its goofy selfie lenses, geofilters, and other tools are part of why users open the app 18 times per day on average.

“You can think of the app as this gradient of personal to broadcast,” says Murphy. It starts with personal chatting on the left and ends with user stories and publisher stories on the right.

The average Snapchat user spends 25 to 30 minutes in the app every day.

Another unique thing about Snapchat is its QR ‘Snapcodes,” which you can scan to add someone else on the app. “Snapcodes are in line with this idea that the camera should do more than just capture and share,” says Murphy.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the future of this idea that the camera can be a launch point for interactive experiences,” he says.

Another Snapchat innovation is Live Stories, which let users submit videos to a shared channel around a specific theme.

Snapchat’s publisher stories let the likes of BuzzFeed and Vice organize their own daily editions with original content.

Snap’s newest product is Spectacles, its camera-equipped sunglasses. Spectacles capture video in a circular format that Spiegel says “captures video in the same perspectives your eyes do.”

“When you can see your own memory from your own perspective, you connect back with that feeling and that place and those emotions in a way that’s totally different from traditional video,” he says.

“We approach innovation really differently at Snap,” says Spiegel. “It’s not a throw-things-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of company.”

Snap is “insatiable” about new product ideas, according to Murphy. And ideas come from every department in the company.

“One of the challenges that we’ve encountered over time is explaining to people why bigger isn’t better,” says Spiegel. Snapchat is about connecting you with your close friends, not everyone you’ve ever met.

Snap CSO Imran Khan is in charge of growing the app’s business. “The entire nature of our product is that it’s active, not passive,” he says.

Snap sees its biggest revenue opportunity in the growing budget for worldwide mobile advertising, which is expected to reach $196 billion by 2020.

Snap is particularly interested in attracting TV ad budgets, and it says that younger users are shifting their attention from traditional TV to mobile phones. The majority of Snapchat’s users are between the ages of 13 and 34.

Snapchat’s ad products and normal products are built the same way by the same designers, a strategy it says makes ads feel more fun and familiar.

Snapchat sells two kinds of ads: fullscreen video “Snap Ads” and sponsored creative tools, like lenses and geofilters. More than half of Snap Ads are watched with sound, and advertisers can embed web links and longer videos.

Khan says that Snapchat literally lets users “play with brands.”

Snapchat works with a host of third-party partners to provide measurement of its ads. Advertisers can also buy ads through Snapchat’s automated ad sales system.

Snap’s business is to “create the best camera platform so we can drive engagement and monetize that engagement through advertising,” says Khan.

“Healthy user engagement is the foundation of our company,” says CFO Drew Vollero. Now Snap is starting to monetize its engagement, which should then lead to profitability.

Snapchat’s users are more concentrated in developed markets with high-end smartphones and strong internet connections. This allows Snapchat to focus its ads on highly monetizable users.

Snapchat’s average revenue per users has grown rapidly since it started monetizing its app in 2015, and the company sees its highest growth coming from North America and Europe.

Snap uses Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services to host its infrastructure, which it says lets it focus on product development.

Vollero estimates that Snap’s decision to not host its own infrastructure has saved the company billions already. Snap currently has a $2 billion contract with Google Cloud and another $1 billion contract with Amazon.

Snap has made a number of acquisitions to date, like its acquisition of Bitmoji for more than $100 million, and it expects to make more to further its product development.

“We truly care about the integrity of personal communication,” says Snap General Counsel Chris Handman. The company’s privacy policy is written in plain English.

Spiegel says his employees are kind, smart and creative. “And when I say kind, I mean the kind of kind that compels you to tell someone that they have something stuck in their teeth.”

The last section of Snap’s roadshow video is about its bi-weekly Councils. Employees from different departments sit in a circle and “talk about how they feel,” according to Spiegel.

“It’s been a fantastic tool for us to create this sense of a family that Snap as a company really is,” says Murphy.

“This whole process has been a really great time to reflect on everything we’ve been through,” says Spiegel at the end of the video. “We just remain so focused on creating really great products for our community. There’s so much more to give.”

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