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Evan Spiegel speaks yesterday at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

It's been a bumpy 2017 for Snap Inc. and 27-year-old CEO/founder Evan Spiegel, who made a rare public appearance at Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills yesterday.

His IPO has missed market expectations, closing yesterday at $15 after opening March at $24. Spiegel has struggled mightily to tell the Snap story to Wall Street, bumbling the stock's narrative and investor expectations, and leaving even his advisers frustrated with comms skills. Meanwhile, Facebook/Instagram has ruthlessly copied his hottest product innovations and poached chunks of his ideas — and audience.

On stage yesterday, Spiegel admitted the market debut was harder than he thought, but insisted that he's got a great story to tell and will put a lot more effort into telling it:

  • "[I]nvestors are fearful ... we can never be profitable, or they're fearful that ... competition will kill us," he told interviewer Walter Isaacson. "But I think those are kind of normal fears, really, for any startup. ... [T]he really successful companies just grow through that."

That's why investors who know him best remain very high on him as a CEO and Snap as an authentic, long-term Facebook threat:

  • He confessed his comms skills — internally and externally — need work. One of his advisers told me it took months to get him to this realization and admission.
  • He filled in his pitch as Snap as both tech and hardware company — with the camera, not the phone, as the central communications and creativity device.
  • But his offerings still lack the simplicity and drama of a Steve Jobs product.
  • It's becoming clear that Snap alone (with its closed publishing system) didn't get played by the Russians like Facebook/Google/Twitter did. Publishers are flocking to Spiegel's platform, and his team is racing to make the monetization opportunities more appealing.

Be smart: Evan is six years younger than Zuck; has 166 million daily users — with half of the new ones under 25 — most of them hyper-addicted to his product. Imagine if he could figure out the hardware part, perhaps a camera with a keyboard and phone attached, instead of the other way around.

Be smarter: Spiegel's biggest threat is Facebook and its Instagram Stories, which in April passed Snapchat in daily active users, now at 250 million. He needs a fierce response and strategy to combat Facebook's ability to leverage billions of user and billions of dollars to steal his best innovations.

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Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats target billionaires

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After failing to get a deal on other planned tax increases, key Senate Democrats are pivoting to a billionaires' income tax to pay for President Biden's social spending.

The big picture: No advanced economy has attempted anything similar on such a scale.

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This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.

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Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Donald Trump this week became both a meme stock and a social-media entrepreneur at the same time, by announcing that a new company called Trump Media & Technology Group was going to merge with an existing company listed on the stock market.

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