Evan Spiegel is selling his vision to investors ahead of Snap's huge IPO

Snap Inc. co-founder and chief executive Evan
Spiegel met with potential investors in New York City last week, as the company starts to mobilize backers for its highly-anticipated initial public offering, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Snap, the Los Angeles-based parent company of picture-messaging app Snapchat, filed confidential paperwork for an IPO last fall, setting the wheels in motion for what’s likely to be the largest tech debut in years.

It’s still expected to list its shares in late March, at a value of between $20 billion and $25 billion. No decision has been made yet on which exchange Snap will list its shares on, sources said.

Snap was able to file confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission because it has annual revenue of under $1 billion. It can’t hold formal meetings — the official IPO “roadshow” — with investors until 21 days after its financial statements are publicly available. To meet a late March debut goal, that means Snap has until about mid-February to get its paperwork public.

But Spiegel and his team have visited potential investors for “educational” meetings — in other words, to introduce them to the technology and sell his vision for the future of the company. Those meetings brought him to New York last week, the people said. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Snap executives have held these in several cities around the US.

The company’s 26-year-old CEO is leaving the nuts and bolts of the deal process to his chief financial officer, Drew Vollero, a former Mattel executive who joined the company in 2015, and his chief strategy officer, Imran Khan, the former Credit Suisse investment banker known for helping bring Alibaba and several other tech companies public.

Spiegel will, however, be the focus of the message management conveys to investors, three people said. He will be framed as a visionary, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was depicted before that company’s flotation.

“Evan is the visionary — Evan is the story,” one person told Business Insider.

Snap lieutenants are also scheduled to meet with stock research analysts next week, according to report earlier this week by Axios’ Dan Primack. These meetings are meant to help the analysts refine their financial models — again ahead of the release of official financial statements — and the documents could be public soon after.

The precise timing of the release of the financial statements, in what’s called an S-1 filing, and the entire IPO is subject to change, of course. The timeline could be delayed if Snap faces questions from the SEC over its disclosures, if investor sentiment toward stocks sours substantially, or if early feedback from the investor meetings is somehow lacklustre.

Snap declined to comment.

Wall Street-friendly

Snap’s IPO has been a foregone conclusion on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley for months. The company last year

added a seasoned IPO specialist to its board, and then changed its name from Snapchat to Snap Inc., in a move that it said was meant to speak to potential public investors.

Snapchat adJustin Wu/TwitterSnap’s ghost logo has started appearing on billboards

“You can search Snapchat or Spectacles for the fun stuff and leave Snap Inc. for the Wall Street crowd :)” the company wrote in a blog post in September
The company’s business is quickly evolving away from the chat app that gave it its name. The company has increased advertising, added news, and last year it began selling its Spectacles, eyeglasses that can take photos and video.

On Thursday, the Snapchat app was updated to make it easier to use and less confusing for the general public.

Still, with Snap potentially valued at as much as $25 billion, the company will need out explain what its total addressable market can be — outside of the millennials it is already so popular with. Snapchat said in June that it has 150 million daily users in total. But Instagram, the rival photo app owned by Facebook, has already reached the same level since launching a Snapchat-like service dubbed “Stories” in August.

Snapchat will also have to lay out a vision for how revenue can grow from less than $1 billion to the many-billions. And the angle Snap chooses in pitching itself to Wall Street will be important. The company’s recent foray into hardware and its new identity as a camera company could cause investors to value it differently than a pure-play internet company, where profit margins are typically higher.

Snap also faces two lawsuits since news of its IPO plans first broke last year, most notably one from a former employee who is accusing the company of lying to investors about its growth metrics. The company has said it thinks the suit has no merit.

The company also faces a trademark infringement claim from a company called Eyebobs.

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