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Snapchat prepares for $18 billion IPO

Snapchat commissioned Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and Morgan Stanley to lead its highly anticipated initial public offering, scheduled as early as March 2017. Valued at $18 billion, Snapchat is expected to be the largest technology IPO since Twitter Inc. in November 2013. In the latest round of private funding, the company managed to raise over $1.8 billion.

The Los Angeles-based company laid out the groundwork for an IPO when it took out a line of credit with Morgan Stanley in September. The investment services titan partnered with Credit Suisse on Alibaba Group’s record-breaking $25 billion stock market debut. According to The Ringer, private startup companies tend to shift from equity financing to bank-secured debt in preparation of an IPO. Debt financing also provides an influx of funds while the firm’s investors retain their proportion of ownership, thus preventing the dilution of their stake in the company. Citing anonymous sources, TechCrunch reported Snap Inc.’s revenue in 2015 at $59 million, but noted that “the company has estimated that revenues will be between $250 million and $350 million for 2016, and between $500 million and as much as $1 billion for 2017.”

Snapchat forecasted those numbers based on its growing advertising streams. Brands, such as National Geographic and ESPN, pay a premium to be featured on the Discover tab of the app. The NFL inked a two-year deal with Snapchat to share Live Stories from every game. Sponsored filters and lenses paired with 10-second clips embedded into a user’s story also serve as additional sources of revenue.

What makes Snapchat so appealing to advertisers is its reach to millennial and Generation Z demographics. As of February 2016, 60 percent of its users were between ages 13 and 24, according to data released by the company. Furthermore, in a Piper Jaffray survey of 10,000 respondents whose average age was 16, “80 percent said they used Snapchat at least once per month and 35 percent said it was their favorite platform.” With over 150 million daily active users , Snapchat has the right ingredients for growth.

Snap Inc. brands itself as a camera company. However, the company announced that it would try its hand at hardware with Spectacles, a name given to sunglasses equipped with a camera designed to capture video clips. These clips are then directly uploaded as a Snapchat memory. Pricing the sunglasses at $130, the company made them comparable in price to designer sunglasses and more affordable than a GoPro camera. The phantom of Google Glass still haunts wearable technology but Snap Inc. is willing to test the waters to potentially strike gold. While Snap’s expanding product line and fertile advertising space has it poised for a fruitful 2017, it may have another tech company to thank for warming the market to IPOs.

In the early months of 2016, the market was bearish on IPOs due to depressed oil prices, the U.S. presidential election and Brexit woes. Twilio, a cloud communication platform, revived the tech markets in a stellar fashion.

After an IPO of $15 per share, the stock soared 92 percent to close at $28.79 as the Brexit referendum was underway. Unicorns—the term used to describe private companies with a market value of over $1 billion—were a dying breed until Twilio’s successful debut stirred interest in tech IPOs. Palantir’s recent buyback of its employee’s stock at a premium could signal prospects of an IPO for the $20 billion data firm.

From Picaboo to Snapchat, the five-year-old company has evolved into one of the tech darlings of the world. The company currently boasts 150 million daily users.

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