SNAP’s IPO Has an Odd Footnote: The ‘Camera Company’ Clause

March 7, 2017 - 3 minutes read

Snapchat’s IPO was one of the most anticipated tech events of the year. So you can bet that when $SNAP went live this Thursday, app developers were watching. Would it soar or sink? Will traders benefit, or only underwriters? And why is the social media titan listed as, of all things, a “camera company?”

You read that right: not a social media company. Not a media platform. A “camera company.” (And we all saw what happened to GoPro, the last big “camera company” on the stock exchange, whose price dwindled to a fraction of it’s initial value within the year.)

Apparently, Snapchat is betting that they’ll be able to pole-vault beyond the ephemeral image-sharing that made them famous, and even above the wearable “Spectacles” and filter advertising that made them notorious. According to their S–1 filing, “we believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.”

The question every iPhone app developer in Los Angeles is asking is: what on earth do they mean by “reinventing the camera?” In all likelihood, it’s under wraps for a reason, and will follow a progression much more ambitious than their toy-branded Spectacles launch, which has seen low adoption and negative revenue. (Although to be fair, Snapchat’s app developers succeeded where even Google failed in making wearable cameras cool again.)

The answer will likely address how Snapchat can grow without fear of copycats, as features like their “stories” function have proven easily adaptable by more mainstream social media platforms. Instagram’s “story” statistics nearly matched Snapchat’s within just a few weeks of launching, going to show how app developers don’t have to reinvent the wheel to reach users. They simply have to have the thing users want, in the right context.

Not all investors trust that $SNAP will deliver on these promises, particularly as founders and high level executives cashed out billions in stock on opening day, signaling that even the higher-ups may be skeptical that their shares can maintain a value as high as the $25 they closed at on opening day. For mobile app developers, the only way to answer these questions is to watch and see.

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