Social network Snapchat looking to make billions in market move
The company behind Snapchat, a social network famous for its quickly disappearing messages, is making what could be one of the largest tech market moves in years.
Snap Inc said it is seeking up to three billion US dollars (£2.4bn) in an initial public offering (IPO), a figure that could shift based on investor demand.
That demand will help determine the price per share sought by Snap in the upcoming weeks.
Snapchat has millions of users, particularly among teenagers, and Snap has built a thriving ad business on it.
But the company has also made a lot of money - nearly 900 million US dollars (£719m) - disappear in the past two years.
The fast-growing social network for the younger set boasts 158 million daily users.
It lets people send photos, videos and messages that disappear a few seconds after viewing.
It was created in 2012 by Evan Spiegel, who dropped out of Stanford University just three classes shy of graduation to focus on the app.
Mr Spiegel, 26, is poised to become a multi-billionaire, along with his former fraternity brother at Stanford, Robert Murphy, 28, who is also a company co-founder.
Each man owns 227 million shares of Snap stock, which was valued at 30.72 dollars per share nine months ago when the company raised 700 million dollars (£560m) from a group of investors, according to its IPO documents filed on Thursday.
If Snap can fetch the same price in its IPO, Mr Spiegel and Mr Murphy each will be worth seven billion US dollars.
Snapchat could have died a quick death as a "sexting app", but Mr Spiegel showed a knack for adapting to users' whims and demands, just as Facebook has over the years.
This, as both companies have discovered, is key to outlasting social media fads.
Snapchat is no longer just about disappearing messages.
Over the years, it has added a Discover section where a diverse group of publishers - including People, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Vice and Food Network - post video-heavy stories aimed at millennials.
Another feature, Stories, lets people create a narrative from messages, videos and photos from the past 24 hours.
It is so popular that Facebook's Instagram now has a version of it, too.
And then there's Lenses, which lets people add animated overlays to photos and videos - animals, for example, or flower crowns and sparkly eyes.
The company came under fire a couple of times for adding filters many saw as racist.
One had slanted eyes and buck teeth commonly associated with negative Asian caricatures; another, which Snap called a Bob Marley filter, darkened people's skin. Snap later got rid of the offending filters.
The company looks set to adopt a model designed to give final say to the company founders.
It would be similar to set-ups at Facebook, where chief executive Mark Zuckerberg holds all the power, and Google parent Alphabet, where Larry Page and fellow co-founder Sergey Brin can override all other shareholders.