Anna Pavlenko, de la revista ucraniana Novoye Vremya, me envió un correo electrónico para hacerme algunas preguntas sobre Snap, sobre Evan Spiegel y sobre su reciente salida a bolsa, cuyo texto incluyó en su reportaje publicado el pasado día 17 de marzo con el título “26-летний капитан” (“Un capitán de 26 años”).
Fundamentalmente, hablamos sobre la importancia no solo de las ideas, sino de la capacidad de ejecución: cómo una idea aparentemente simple y que puede ser copiada con facilidad había sido capaz de convertirse en una compañía con una valoración situada por encima de los veinte mil millones de dólares y de salir a bolsa captando 3,400 millones de dólares.
Resulta interesante ver hasta qué punto las características personales de Evan Spiegel – chico de familia rica con una clara inclinación a la toma de decisiones aparentemente arriesgadas – pueden condicionar la marcha de una compañía que no parece tener ningún respeto ante planes tan ambiciosos como dedicarse al hardware, redefinirse de repente en base a una actividad completamente incipiente, o lanzarse a bolsa con un esquema de propiedad excesivamente sesgado que, claramente, el mercado iba a penalizar.
Una actitud así puede inspirar muchas cosas y no todas ellas buenas, pero parece indudable que cualquier otro con unas características diferentes habría escrito la historia de otra manera, empezando con la más que probable venta a Facebook por tres mil millones de dólares en noviembre de 2013, y siguiendo con las reacciones ante las sucesivas copias que la compañía de Mark Zuckerberg ha llevado a cabo de su modelo o con la manera brillante de estructurar su negocio publicitario. Una parte importante de las perspectivas de Snapchat, para bien o para mal, están fuertemente vinculada con esa arrogancia característica de Evan Spiegel.
A continuación, las preguntas y respuestas que crucé (en inglés) con Anna:
Q. How does Snapchat differ from the other social media platforms? What are its strengths and weak sides, to your mind?
A. Everything on Snapchat boils down to an amazing capacity for execution: it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. The original idea behind Snapchat, ephemeral messaging that self-destructs within a few seconds, is not a particularly overwhelming concept, but it was designed in a way that made it absolutely alluring for a specific target audience, and allowed the company to become a real trend-setter that every other company in the social media arena is now relentlessly copying. This obsession of “walking their own path” and waiting for others to follow is what clearly differentiates Snap as a company: Evan Spiegel is a rich kid that manages a company as if money and resources were not an issue, starts new lines of business – even hardware, despite the old adage that says “hardware is hard” – as if there was no tomorrow, and gets investors crazy about the trends it could generate. Their main strength is definitely their capacity for execution, and their weakness, the dependency on a sociodemographic segment that has previously proved to be random and fickle in their tastes and adoption patterns.
Q. How would you characterize Snap’s co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel? What helped him to become the youngest billionaire in the world?
A. Evan Spiegel is a man with an idea. He has been pursuing that idea for many years, through several dozens of projects – Snapchat, originally called Picaboo, was no less than their 34th entrepreneurial attempt – and always with a strong focus in what the customer wants. The best way to understand Evan Spiegel is by following the way he communicates through the Snapchat corporate blog. He is clearly trying to redefine the way young people communicate, he doesn’t allow any deviations from that path, and so far, he has been pretty successful in doing so: 160 million users every day relentlessly sending each other messages… when they have nothing to look at, they just point their camera to an empty wall and send it along with some recording of themselves speaking, just to stay in touch. Even Spiegel is an incredibly ambitious person following a very well defined vision.
Q. What are the Snap’s perspectives, to your opinion?
A. Snap’s IPO was cleverly designed as a way to capitalize on the company’s ability to attract legions of fans believing in a success story, even though financially, the company is still far from being a success story. The plan was to squeeze as much money as possible, releasing the minimum amount of control. In fact, the original idea was probably to let Snap’s market cap to be pushed so high that major indices, including the S&P 500 index and the MSCI USA Index, would have to include the stock, so index and pension funds that track these indices would all have to buy the shares, driving up the share price even further. However, there’s a limit for ambition: a group representing large institutional investors approached index providers S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI Inc., and tried to bar Snap Inc. and any other company that sells investors non-voting shares from their stock benchmarks. Apparently, the company went too far in trying to preserve their control, so some wise observers decided this was against the interest of the common investor. Financial markets are tough to deal with, and even worse when they grow suspicious. Right now, there’s no way to know whether Snap’s IPO will follow the successful path previously walked by Facebook (regardless of its initial problems) or the not so successful road followed by Twitter… but Snap financials and user base now definitely resemble more Twitter’s than Facebook’s. Only time will tell.
This post is also available in English in my Medium page, “Where is Snap headed?“