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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

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."