Another Sign of Trouble with the ‘Unicorns’

Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit - Day 1
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 08: Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel speaks onstage during "Disrupting Information and Communication" at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 8, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
Photograph by Michael Kovac — Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Snapchat’s valuation has been on a rocket ride the last few years: It shot up from just $70 million in February 2013 to $16 billion this past May. Now the value of the red-hot social messaging app has taken a step in the other direction.

Fidelity, which invested in Snapchat through two different funds, reportedly marked down the value of its stake in the service by 25% in the third quarter, the Financial Times reports, citing Morningstar data. The reassessment happened at the end of September, when Fidelity dropped the valuation of each convertible preferred share in the private company from $30.72 to $22.91. Fidelity’s Snapchat stake in the third quarter was $34.5 million, according to Bloomberg.

Venice, CA-based Snapchat has raised $1.2 billion in venture capital funds and expanded its Discover feature in its effort to bring in revenue. The Fidelity news comes just one month after Fidelity and Blackrock also marked down the value of their stakes in Dropbox. In related news, Square’s recently announced IPO price puts the company well below its previous private valuation.

Indeed, many outlets are interpreting the Snapchat drop as another indication that tech unicorns are overvalued. The New York Times called the markdowns “signs of growing unease over the dizzying valuations” and Bloomberg wrote that it is “the latest evidence that private technology companies are losing some of their luster.”

In sum, prepare to see more of the term “unicorpse.”

But it’s also possible that the Snapchat markdown speaks only to the developments at Snapchat itself. The company has lost eight top executives in the past year, including high-profile COO Emily White, who had come from Instagram in 2013 and landed on Fortune‘s 40 Under 40 in 2014. An employee review posted to the jobs site Glassdoor this past spring notes that “all the adults have left.”

Snapchat and Fidelity did not respond to requests for comment.

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