Data Sheet—Why It’s Time to Stop Complaining About Evan Spiegel’s $638 Million Payday
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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel just got paid $638 million and everybody’s freaking out. Calm down. Aaron in for Adam on this hyperactive Friday.
First of all, there’s no news here. Almost a year ago, Snap disclosed that back in July 2015, its investors had struck a pact with Spiegel that if the company went public, the leader would be entitled to another 3% of the outstanding stock.
At the time, it looked like that might be an $800 million bonanza, but it’s now worth only $637 million, according to Snap’s December 31 10-K filing made yesterday. (The other million-ish dollars of pay reflect tax fees, security costs, and other charges the company paid on behalf of the CEO.) And as of Snap’s actual closing stock price on Thursday of $17.51, the award’s value is down to $603 million. (Thank you very much, Kylie Jenner.)
Also, the agreement was a smart bargain, as one only has to look down the list of the dozens and dozens of “unicorn” startups that have not gone public (I see you hiding there at #8, WeWork). Their investors, including many regular employees, have no straightforward way to cash out or diversify their stock holdings. Motivating Spiegel to go public avoided that financial purgatory fate. And it probably took an amount between $500 million and $1 billion to motivate the co-founder, who already was worth billions on paper, could sell some of his shares even while the company was still private and, with his college buddy Bobby Murphy, effectively controlled the company.
So the bottom line is that the 3% stock award was for past deeds that Spiegel completed with aplomb.
Looking ahead, we can certainly debate how well Spiegel has performed as CEO of a public company. Snap’s stock had taken a drubbing since going public last June at $17, trading at less than $12 within months. Then two weeks ago, the shares soared to almost $21 as revenue and user growth seemed to pick up again in the fourth quarter.
On Thursday, the shares were dropping again, down 6% and back around the original IPO price, thanks to growing resentment over an ugly redesign of Snap’s app. Reality TV star Kylie Jenner tweeted her dislike on Tuesday night and my focus group of one, my 13-year-old son, agrees. “I hate it,” he told me this morning as we waited at the bus stop. “I cannot name a single person who actually like it. I’m considering not using Snapchat anymore.”
Snap has said it’s sticking with the new app layout. But if too many people agree with my son and Kylie, it could be a much smaller payday for Spiegel in the future.
Aspirational accommodations. Airbnb rolled out a series of new features to help convince users to spend more money via the travel booking app. Co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk tells Fortune that the most important is the new "Plus" level offering, slightly more expensive lodgings that have passed a 100-point in-person inspection. “Here’s a set of properties that we actually sent someone to inspect,” he says.
From the digital heart. An anonymous bitcoin investor known only as "Pine" has donated $56 million to a variety of charities, including the Sustainable Ocean Alliance and the Open Medicine Foundation, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported this week after scoring an exclusive interview. "I was just thinking that I wanted to use my bitcoin for good in this world," Pine tells the magazine.
Popular plutocrat. The ultimate geek is making the ultimate geek cameo. Bill Gates will appear in next week's episode of top-rated CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory. The multi-billionaire founder of Microsoft is on a media tour of sorts, after appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week, where he failed to accurately guess the price of various grocery items.
Twin charms. Both sides of the old Hewlett Packard impressed Wall Street with strong results. HP Inc, the PC and printer maker, said sales increased 14% to $14.5 billion, $1 billion more than analysts expected, thanks to strong sales of more expensive gaming PCs and laptops. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, catering to corporate customers, said sales (after adjusting for its software spinoff) increased 11% to $7.7 billion, about $600 million more than analysts expected. In premarket trading on Friday, HP's shares were up 6% and HPE's gained 12%.
Don't hold your breath. Elon Musk's SpaceX got a start, a small start, on its ambitious satellite broadband Internet network. The company lofted into orbit its first two prototype satellites for the Starlink service, which won't be operational until the mid-2020s.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Startups for Women Is the New Hot Trend. Is That a Good Thing? By Valentina Zarya
Smartwatch Sales Are About to Take Off—Finally By Aaron Pressman
Symantec's Greg Clark Discusses Helming the Cybersecurity Giant By Susie Gharib
Watch the Upcoming Tesla Semi Truck Take Off in This Video By Don Reisinger
Here Are the Next Cities to Get Amazon Go Cashier-Less Stores By Don Reisinger
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Warren Buffett is considered one of the greatest investors who ever lived, but his track record with big tech companies is not so hot. His big bet on IBM never paid off (by one estimate he lost $800 million). Now, as Peter Cohan explores for Forbes, Buffett is big into Apple. Initially, Buffett made a hefty profit on the stake but the future is murkier, Cohan argues. Cohan prefers a different tech giant:
Warren Buffett famously said in the 1990s that he did not understand technology investing. He proved that with his big bad bet on IBM and now he's doing the same with Apple. To be sure, he has made money on his Apple bet so far, but his recent bigger bet on Apple's future growth is unlikely to pay off as well.
If he really wants to make money investing in technology, he should invest in Amazon.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few interesting longer reads I came across that are suitable for your weekend reading pleasure.
How Microsoft’s Brad Smith Navigates the Trump Era as the Tech Industry’s ‘De Facto Ambassador’ (GeekWire)
Microsoft has a history of working with (and financially supporting) Republicans and Democrats in roughly equal measure, like many blue chip companies. But with the majority of millennials skewing further left, while Republicans gained control of Congress and the White House, Smith—labeled “a de facto ambassador for the technology industry at large” by The New York Times—needed a new way to walk the tightrope.
The Internet Isn't Forever (Longreads and the Columbia Journalism Review)
In the 21st century, more and more information is “born digital” and will stay that way, prone to decay or disappearance as servers, software, Web technologies, and computer languages break down. The task of internet archivists has developed a significance far beyond what anyone could have imagined in 2001, when the Internet Archive first cranked up the Wayback Machine and began collecting Web pages; the site now holds more than 30 petabytes of data dating back to 1996. (One gigabyte would hold the equivalent of 30 feet of books on a shelf; a petabyte is a million of those.)
Technology Change Not the Culprit in Wages Falling Behind U.S. Productivity Gains (Naked Capitalism)
Since 1973, there has been divergence between labour productivity and the typical worker’s pay in the U.S. as productivity has continued to grow strongly and growth in average compensation has slowed substantially. This column explores the causes and implications of this trend. Productivity growth appears to have continued to push workers’ wages up, with other factors to blame for the divergence. The evidence casts doubt on the idea that rapid technological progress is the primary driver here, suggesting rather that institutional and structural factors are to blame.
Sorry, Collectors, Nobody Wants Your Beanie Babies Anymore (Wall Street Journal)
Such dreams are crushed for anyone calling Rogue Toys, a collectibles store with branches in Las Vegas and Portland, Ore. The store’s answering machine specifically says the store doesn’t want to buy your Beanies. “If you bring Beanies to me and try to sell them to me in bulk, I’ll give you about 20 cents. That’s me telling you I don’t want them,” said Steve Johnston, the store’s owner. “Give them away.”
BEFORE YOU GO
Speaking of bus stop chatter, I cannot believe that this fashion trend story in the Wall Street Journal is true: ‘Dad Style’ Is Now in Fashion. Yes, Even the Jeans. Say it ain't so.