The day for one of the most hyped stock market debuts has finally arrived as Snap Inc. (SNAP) , the parent company of Snapchat, has officially gone public with a valuation of approximately $33.4 billion.
Snap's offering was priced at $17 per share on Wednesday, already above its initial target range of $14 to $16 per share. Snap raised more than $3.4 billion in its offering topping the $3 billion in total raised by tech companies in 2016 and more than double the amount raised by venture capital-backed tech companies in 2016.
"This is the type of IPO that can characterize an entire year in the IPO market," said Matt Kennedy, analyst at Renaissance Capital, a provider of IPO research and funds. "You add the proceeds of every venture capital-backed tech IPO of last year, Snap just raised twice the amount."
There were only 21 tech IPOs last year raising a total of $3 billion, within that 15 of them were VC-backed tech IPOs raising a total of $1.67 billion, according to the 2016 Annual Review of the US IPO market report from Renaissance Capital. Snap itself has a long list of venture capital backers too but the two that stand to benefit the most from its IPO are Benchmark and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Part of the reason for Snap's remarkable capital raise is timing, experts explain, not only the hype around the disappearing photo-messaging app that asks investors to view it as a camera company NOT a software company.
Investors and analysts believe that Snap could not have chosen a better time to come to the market. The U.S. tech IPO market declined to its lowest level in a decade in 2016, registering only 16 public offerings for total proceeds of $1.8 billion, a far cry from the $8.4 billion recorded in 2015, according to PwC.
"I think this is a great time for IPOs, there is a window that's opened up, there's animal spirits back in the market, there's a risk-on environment right now," said Santosh Rao, head of research at Manhattan Venture Research.
The lack of tech IPOs has driven extra interests in Snap but Snap's offering also comes at a time when the stock market has surged to a record high, driven by raised expectations of tax cuts, higher interest rates and looser regulations promised by the Trump administration.
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Opening at $24 a share and closing at about $24.48 a share, Snap lands one of the richest valuations in a U.S.-based tech IPO since Action Alerts PLUS holding Facebook (FB) raised $16 billion in 2012. Snap is also decidedly the largest U.S. tech IPO since Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) raised $25 billion in 2014.
"Even at a $24 billion valuation, it's still just a fraction of Facebook. If they execute at any level near how Facebook has executed, they will deserve that market cap because this is a $650 billion advertising market that is still dominated by TV, billboards, traditional media outlets," said Eric J. Kim, co-founder and Managing Partner at Goodwater Capital, a venture capital firm. "There's still a massive market opportunity ahead for Snap if they execute well."
Despite warning signs in Snap's S1 regulatory filing on Feb. 2, investors have flocked to buy into the company's offering. Investors familiar with Snap's IPO process told multiple media outlets that the book was ten times oversubscribed.
"It's certainly reflecting expectations and strong investor demand. They would not have raised the price if they didn't think they were going to be able to sell the stock at at least that amount," said Jay Ritter, an IPO expert and finance professor at the University of Florida. "But only time will tell if it's the next Facebook or next Twitter (TWTR) . Normally when the offer price is raised, there's a very high probability that the price is going to jump."
Ritter said that for the companies that set an offer price above the original file price maximum, on average, the first day return is 37% based on IPO data he has compiled from 2011 to 2016. He believes that Snap is very likely to break that lack of price jump even though there hasn't been any IPO this year with a big first-day price jump.
But the question that investors and analysts ask the most is whether post-IPO Snap will emerge more like indomitable Facebook or embattled Twitter.
"For the longer term, Snap is going to be a volatile company. It is either going to be a big success or big failure almost certainly. This isn't a traditional restaurant chain or some other mundane business that operates in a competitive market," said Ritter. "It operates in a winner-take-all environment where Facebook is their main competition. It's possible there will be a duopoly of Facebook and Snap, both having very popular disappearing messaging formats and sharing photos and things. But it's possible one or the other might end up dominating or falling by the wayside."
While Snap is the largest IPO for tech in 2016 and 2017, others have tried to list but have been scooped up before their shares hit the exchanges. Cisco (CSCO) snapped up tech unicorn AppDynamics for a whopping $3.7 billion on Jan.24, putting a stop to what could have been the first tech IPO of the year. Meanwhile, the only comparable IPO to Snap in size so far is Blackstone (BSL) -backed Invitation Homes (INVH) , the largest U.S. home rental company, which raised $1.54 billion in an initial public offering on Jan. 31.