Updated from 3:00 p.m. with additional details and information.
Snap opened trading at $24 per share, 41% higher than its initial offering price of $17, helped by strong demand and a book that was more than 10 times oversubscribed. That's well above the average one-day pop for U.S. listed technology or internet IPOs, which stands at 22%, according to Dealogic.
At its closing price on Thursday, the company is valued at approximately $34 billion, based on the shares outstanding as of the IPO, plus the expected vesting of stock options and restricted stock units (RSUs). Snap sold 200 million shares of Class A common stock in the offering, raising a total of $3.4 billion. More than 172 million shares have traded hands so far on Thursday.
The robust demand was likely due to a dearth of tech IPOs in the market recently, a relatively small float (Snap only sold about 14% of the company) and strong market conditions overall. Snap's public debut was the largest tech IPO in the U.S. since Alibaba (BABA) - Get Report debuted at a $168 billion valuation in 2014.
Snap co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy carried on the NYSE IPO tradition of ringing the opening bell to kick start the day's trading and, before that, gathered with other Snap executives, NYSE officials and family members (including Spiegel's fiancee, model Miranda Kerr) in the exchange's recently renovated ballroom for breakfast.
Spiegel and Murphy were given a medallion to commemorate the date of their IPO and were also allowed to keep the ceremonial gavel used to ring the opening bell.
The co-founders, meanwhile, presented the NYSE with a gift as well: One of their unmistakable Snapbots, the company's vending machines that distribute Spectacles. Traders and other officials were seen strolling around the trading floor while sporting the video recording sunglasses.
Shares of Snap didn't officially begin trading until close to 11:30 a.m ET on Thursday. A mass of floor brokers gathered around Snap's designated market maker (DMM), Global Trading Systems, which oversaw an auction that determined Snap's opening price. The DMM shouted out the price of orders as they came in, with some onlookers speculating that shares could open at as much as $25.50 a share.
Clustered onlookers stared at a screen estimating how much Snap could begin trading at, with a trader remarking at one point that it felt was like a "bloodbath" at the center of the crowd. Spiegel and Murphy were said to have left the floor shortly after they rang the opening bell, but Spiegel's parents were seen standing near NYSE Chairman Jeff Sprecher during the auction process, which lasted a little less than two hours.
"There was a lot of excitement in the crowd and it's obvious that everyone's using Snapchat," said Quattro M Securities trader Peter Tuchman, a 30-year veteran of the NYSE, who added that he's only used Snapchat a few times because he "may be too old for the app."
"I think [Twitter and Snapchat] were on an even keel with each other," Tuchman explained. "Twitter was one of the big social companies to go public so there was that hype on it. Alibaba, same thing."
"Snapchat lived up to a big exciting opening," Tuchman continued. "As a trader, that's what I look for."
Empire Executions President Peter Costa, who has spent time on the NYSE trading floor for more than 35 years, said the auction may have seemed longer than other IPOs, but that it was a reflection of just how hotly-anticipated Snap's IPO had become.
"When you have something this large -- you're talking about a 200 million share opening -- you want to get it right," Costa said. "People said they could've opened faster, but $23 per share would've been the wrong price."
Snap's current market cap is well above the roughly $20 billion private valuation the company received in a 2016 funding round, and is for now putting to rest fears that the company would join the ranks of tech "unicorns" that wound up being valued less by public markets than private investors.
Still, bearish investors have made their case for why several of Snapchat's big concerns just aren't disappearing.
"You buy shares, you don't have a vote. [And] you have a company that lost $500 million last year," Costa said. "So you're talking about a company that's eating money."
When Snap reports its first financial results as a public company, Costa said investors will be looking to see if Spiegel's ambitious vision and reassurances about advertising dollars will actually come to fruition. Investors tolerance for profitability is much shorter because now "their money is on the table," he added.
However, like rival social media giant Facebook (FB) - Get Report , Snap is very much a show-me story. Facebook shares initially stumbled out of the gate, tumbling more than 50% in the subsequent months after its public debut. But CEO Mark Zuckerberg was able to quiet those concerns by quickly moving to capitalize on the growth in mobile advertising.
"I was not a big fan of the Facebook IPO -- I was very leery of it," Costa added. "I was 100% wrong."
Spiegel will have to show investors that it can turn around sluggish user growth in the face of competition, better monetize its users and successfully expand into international markets. Costa said he spoke with Spiegel on Thursday morning, telling him that Snap's future weighs on the success of its management, not necessarily just the products.
Based on 2016 revenue of $404 million and a $24 per share price, Snap is valued at about 80 times trailing sales. Assuming the company hits a reported 2017 sales target of $1 billion -- the slowdown seen in the company's sales growth in the fourth quarter suggests this isn't a given -- it's trading at about 33 times forward sales. Snap had a GAAP net loss of $451.6 million last year, thanks to costs and expenses of $924.9 million. Plenty of questions remain about the future of the company following its IPO.
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