Snapchat defies tech startup wisdom at every turn.
💥A Boom with a View💥 is a column about startups and the technology industry, written by Erin Griffith. Find them all here: fortune.com/boom.
Five years ago Snapchat burst onto the scene as a mobile messaging app unlike any other. Under its new name, Snap, the Los Angeles company hasn’t stopped defying convention. In recent weeks Snap pulled off two things that its Silicon Valley peers haven’t been able to figure out: connected eyewear and an IPO.
First, the eyewear. Snap managed to get people excited about wearing cameras on their faces. In November Snap began selling Spectacles, a $130 pair of sunglasses with a camera that connects to the Snapchat app. If positive early reviews, long lines to buy, and heated eBay auctions are any indication, Spectacles are a hit.
The Spectacles spectacle must be shocking to the engineers at X, the “moonshot factory” of Google parent company Alphabet googl . They spent years working on Google Glass, their take on connected eyewear. Glass had more features and uses than Spectacles, but its $1,500 price tag, creepy sci-fi look, and eager adoption by elite techies made the device an object of ridicule. Not even a collaboration with fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg could make Glass hip.
Spectacles, on the other hand, are destined to be on every cool kid’s Christmas list this year. Snap knows its young fans want the product to be fun. The Spectacles are brightly colored, like novelty sunglasses, and cheap enough to buy for a beach day or a night out. Moreover, Snap made Spectacles artificially scarce to stoke demand, limiting sales to vending machines dropped in far-flung locations like the Grand Canyon.
Snap’s second feat is its forthcoming IPO. In November the five-year-old company confidentially filed to go public, according to reports, defying conventional wisdom among highly valued startups. The latest generation of startup CEOs disdain the short-termism of quarterly earnings reports; they see going public as a necessary evil to be avoided as long as possible. But not Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. This year has seen the slowest IPO market since the 2008 financial crisis. Snap’s IPO will be the most talked-about debut since Alibaba went public in 2014.
For more on Snapchat IPO, watch this Fortune video:
Wall Street’s thirst for a buzzy IPO like Snap is palpable. Why else would the New York Stock Exchange plaster a giant banana-yellow banner on its stately edifice, imploring passersby to “Add us on Snapchat”? NYSE executives have even donned neon Spectacles during opening and closing bell ceremonies.
The listing could do more than warm up a chilly IPO market. The investment world is hoping that Snap’s IPO will help get millennials interested in investing. Most young people don’t play the stock market, according to surveys, because they don’t have the money or the understanding. Personally, I would be surprised if Snap’s IPO will change that reality. But the company twice defied the world’s expectations to generate buzz for connected eyewear and a public offering. Why not a third time?
A version of this article appears in the December 15, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “It was Buzz at First Sight.”