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One of the biggest questions ahead of Snap's first earnings call is whether or not its CEO will show up

May 10,2017 04:13

While some high-profile CEOs like Amazon's Jeff Bezos have eschewed investor calls, many tech CEOs, including Zuckerberg, carry the mantle of explaining their business to the world. Yet nothing about Spiegel's history suggests he's willing to follow ...and more »



Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.AP/Jae C. Hong

Snapchat will deliver its first progress report as a public company on Wednesday, but it's a mystery whether the man investors want to hear from will show up.
Evan Spiegel, the reclusive 26-year-old Snap CEO, is considered the product visionary who turned the disappearing-messages app into a global phenomenon. And with Snapchat facing intense competition from Facebook — and its stock trading below the opening price of its initial public offering in March — Spiegel is the man Wall Street is betting on to lead the company to victory.
"People invested based on Evan's product genius," said Eric Kim, a partner at Goodwater Capital, a firm that specializes in consumer-company analysis.
Investors want to get a sense of who Spiegel is, what his demeanor is like, and what his vision for the product is.
Spiegel is still a relatively unfamiliar figure in the eyes of investors. When Snapchat was a privately held startup, Spiegel didn't take the stage at flashy product launches, as many of his peers do, and he made relatively few public appearances. Compare that with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is currently on a tour of the US, regularly posting photos of his various stops on his profile page.
Since Snap's IPO, Spiegel appears to have done only one interview, with the Los Angeles Times, despite backlash about remarks he supposedly made about India and Spain.
Wednesday's earnings call will provide Spiegel a chance to lift the veil a bit on who he is and what he's thinking about Snap's future, especially amid Facebook coming at the company with guns blazing. The question is whether Spiegel will stick to his under-the-radar image or address investors head-on.
Spiegel could skip the call altogether, leaving COO Imran Khan and CFO Drew Vollero, who run the business side of things, to handle the investors' inquisitions.
Snap declined to comment on whether Spiegel would be on the call.
While some high-profile CEOs like Amazon's Jeff Bezos have eschewed investor calls, many tech CEOs, including Zuckerberg, carry the mantle of explaining their business to the world.
Yet nothing about Spiegel's history suggests he's willing to follow tradition for tradition's sake.
The greatest example is how Snap conducted its IPO.
Instead of offering traditional voting shares, Snapchat's parent company offered only nonvoting shares to the public on March 2. The nonvoting shares and Snap's corporate structure set it up so that Spiegel and his cofounder, Bobby Murphy, retained control of the company despite its public status.
Now that Spiegel's brainchild is about to issue its first earnings report, Spiegel has a chance to share his vision for the product with the world and lay out how the company plans to fight back against Facebook's attempts to thwart its user growth. Snap, however, has already said it won't issue forward-looking guidance about its business.
A Spiegel no-show on Wednesday would be "disappointing," Kim said. He says he believes Spiegel has to be on the call because it's Snap's product under attack, not its financials or ad business.
Goodwater Capital
"I think there's so many questions about the product," Kim said. "The financials are straightforward: It's not a profitable company, but it's growing fast."
Kim wants to know how Snap plans to address the moves Facebook has made to claw away Snap's user base. According to a recent Goodwater Capital survey, Facebook increased its share of the so-called Stories market when it cloned one of Snapchat's most popular features. Meanwhile, Snap's share had stayed flat.
RBC's Mark Mahaney also found mixed results on Snapchat's traffic trends. He said in his report that Comscore data showed that total time spent in the app had declined, although its average number of monthly unique visitors increased in the first quarter.
Investors bought into Snap's vision during the IPO roadshow, and Spiegel was there to present and answer questions. But the competition from Facebook means Spiegel needs to make an appearance to explain what happens next with the product, Kim said.
On whether Spiegel could afford to not lead the call, Kim said, "Maybe pre-Facebook Stories, yes, but post-Facebook Stories, no." He said that when Spiegel went public, "Facebook didn't have this product feature that went after his core user base."
While it's unclear how the stock would react to a Spiegel no-show, it shouldn't surprise investors. After all, they've already invested in the young CEO's vision for the product when they bought nonvoting shares of a company he mostly controls.
Get the latest Snap stock price here.

SEE ALSO: Bitcoin just soared to a new $1,600 high — but the first investor in Snapchat thinks it could hit $500,000 by 2030

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