In last week’s article, The Ghost of Snapchat, I detailed how Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel made a $3 billion dollar mistake by rejecting Mark Zuckerberg's buyout offer. The pending release of “Slingshot,” Facebook’s (FB) version of the Snapchat application, combined with the company's massive user base, displays how Snapchat’s monopoly over “disappearing” photo-sharing services is on the decline. Now, just days since my last article was published, a number of highly inappropriate emails that Spiegel sent out, during his undergraduate attendance of Stanford University, have been unearthed. The emails, which detail Spiegel’s escapades as a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, made headlines overnight and now face tremendous criticisms. If “Slingshot” was not already placing massive pressure on the Snapchat CEO, the same guy who arrogantly declined Facebook's $3 billion offer months prior, Spiegel and his Snapchat empire are most certainly feeling the heat now.
Spiegel's outlandish emails also illustrate the irony of his company and fortune being threatened by files that didn’t quite “disappear.” Thus, this recent phenomenon emphasizes an important, and volatile, variable of finance that is often forgotten by investors: the importance of company's executives and their actions.
When a potential investor reviews a company’s financial information, often published on websites like Yahoo Finance and CNBC, they can look at the current stock price, 52-week price range, price-to-earnings ratio, and other informative statistics. However, one element that is not often clearly publicized are the names of the individuals in charge of the company (i.e. large shareholders, important insiders, and influential decision makers); this is even more problematic with private firms. Yet, these people are of seemingly equal importance when compared to a company’s valuation, and whether or not one should invest in it. Although Snapchat is not a publically traded company, Spiegel’s latest mishap still demonstrates how executive actions, whether public or private, cannot be separated from the workplace.
Additionally, in its most recent round of funding, Snapchat failed to legitimize Facebook's $3 billion valuation (offered by Zuckerberg). Instead, the company raised $50 million in funding, which placed Snapchat's value at $2 billion, as of December. Now, with Spiegel's misogynistic emails in circulation, finding additional funding for Snapchat will inevitably be much more difficult. Questions about the 23-year-old’s maturity had already been raised in the past, and now such questions will remain well into the future. Some critics are even calling for Spiegel to resign as CEO of Snapchat.
The futures of Spiegel and Snapchat remain uncertain; however, in an ironic turn of events, Spiegel has demonstrated why it is of utmost importance for investors to look beyond the numbers of a company (click here for more investment tips). Although they may be difficult to gauge, investors must analyze the people responsible for maintaining and expanding the company itself. Otherwise, investors will observe companies like Snapchat disintegrate from within (regardless of their fundamentals).