Snap’s first few months since its IPO have already revealed investors’ brutal lack of confidence in the future of a company that seemed red-hot just one year ago.
The reason is simple. As Snap moved toward its IPO, its user growth deflated at an alarming rate.
With Snap set to report its first earnings as a public company today, investors are going to be asking the following:
Can Snap regain some user growth momentum that puts it on a trajectory similar to Facebook, which somehow seems to continue growing at a steady rate despite its size? Or is Snap set to be another Twitter, a former social media darling that sees user growth stagnate not long after going public?
In Q2 of 2016, Snap reported 17.2 percent year-over-year user growth. But in the next two quarters that rate fell to 7 percent, and then 3.3 percent. If Snap had waited one more quarter to go public, one has to wonder if it even could have made it out the door, given that trend line.
Investors, despite a strong first day, immediately turned on the company. The stock has always stayed above its IPO price of $17 per share, but at one point it fell from a high of $27.89 to $19.24. Yesterday, the stock closed at $23.32, indicating that at least some of the panic has abated.
Still, if user growth is flat, or even declines, expect the long knives to come out of investors’ pockets.
At the end of 2016, Snap reported that it had 158 million users, up just 5 million from the previous quarter — though also up from 107 million the same quarter a year before that. Of course, 50 percent growth is but a dream at this point.
Not coincidentally, it seems Snap hit this wall just as Facebook made an all-out effort to introduce new features across its mobile app, Messenger, and Instagram that barely hide their attempts to clone the Snap experience. Instagram reported that its Stories features had 200 million users, topping Snap’s user base.
Devilish, perhaps. But the move was apparently effective at choking off Snap’s growth.
Consensus analyst estimates are that Snap will report revenue of $158 million for the quarter and a loss per share of $0.19.
Snap, in its IPO prospectus, did not provide quarter-by-quarter revenue breakdowns. That decision is…odd…because investors were able to judge the trajectory of Snap’s revenue over the course of the year.
For all of 2016, the company said it had $404 million in revenue, up from $58.7 million the year before, when it had just begun monetization efforts. The current revenue target for Q1 would put the company on pace for about $630 million in revenue for the year.
If Snap’s revenue is really headed in that direction, that might provide a strong counterweight to slowing user growth — if Snap can demonstrate it is massively monetizing current users. It will be interesting to see if Snap is willing to say how its Q1 revenue compares to Q4 2016 revenue.
Still, even if Snap demonstrates decent revenue growth, if investors think the company can’t attract more users at such a young age and despite having so much cultural buzz, decent monetization trends may not be enough to keep them from getting spooked.