Mar 2, 2017

Snap's first investor on why he thought it was a winner

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata

Greg Ruben / Axios

Lightspeed Venture Partners was the first institutional investor in Snap, investing $485,000 back in April 2012. The company would ultimately invest a total of $8.1 million, which was valued at nearly $1.5 billion at the IPO price.

Jeremy Liew was the Lightspeed partner who led that early deal ― back when the company was still called Snapchat ― and spoke via phone with Axios on the occasion of Snap's mammoth IPO.

On how Snap fit into Lightspeed's investment thesis:

"One of the things we've always looked for are companies that can become part of popular culture, and we believe that young women are the early adopters of pop culture. This is true if you look at Facebook or Instagram or Tumblr or even MySpace back in the day. We saw the same thing when we first met with Snap, and it has only solidified our belief that user adoption by young women is a good indicator of something that could go mainstream."

On Evan Spiegel becoming a public company CEO:

"Evan has been a masterful leader in the five years since we invested. Not just product leadership, but also business leadership. He has made a lot of smart and prescient moves over the years."

On (the lack of) profits:

"Evan has always talked about the importance of building companies that are long-term sustainable, and profitability is a part of it, even if they aren't there yet."

What it means to Los Angeles tech:

"Los Angeles and New York, have always been the two cities with their fingers on the pulse of pop culture. Silicon Valley doesn't. I don't think that the IPO itself is the big change factor, but it's part of an ongoing trend in which Los Angeles entrepreneurs feel they can now leverage their local advantage to start companies that could become really successful."

Do you feel differently about pro rata rights on seed rounds than when you first backed Snap?

"Market is the most important determinant. Back before there were a lot of seed funds, it was mostly standard VC firms doing seed deals. We typically look to get ownership positions of 20% and up, so are always looking for opportunities to increase our ownership. But markets change. Now there are a lot of seed funds so the terms that are expected have changed. If you don't match the market, you aren't going to get the deal."

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