In need of adult supervision
The growing pains of the unicorn tend to follow a fairly recognisable path. The founder and a few mates have the initial inspiration in a haze of Canopy Growth’s finest, they drop out of Stanford and move into a garage, sleep goes out of the window and they bang out the initial product powered largely by pizza and exotic pharmaceuticals.
Traffic takes off, the venture capitalists hurl money in their direction, they hire everybody in sight, move into a fancy office — and suddenly somebody has to take control of what has rapidly become a sizeable business.
This is the problem that is writ large at Snap, where 28-year-old founder Evan Spiegel appears to be in dire need of adult supervision if he is to make a long-term success of his wildly popular disappearing message app. Snapchat still has 188-million daily users, which goes a long way to explaining Spiegel’s “billionaire visionary” status, but it desperately needs to make progress on monetising that traffic.
It has missed four of its last six earnings targets, and pushed out a redesign, at Spiegel’s insistence, that users greeted with a loud raspberry.
There’s a strong suspicion that Instagram is eating its lunch, and executives are leaving fast, with only four left of the nine who pitched Snap’s roadshow to investors a couple of years ago.
The share price tells the story in bold, tanking from a high of $27 about 18 months ago to its current $9. Spiegel has hired an Amazon veteran as CFO, but the momentum had better swing fast.