Pump And Dump VC Style: Kleiner Perkins’ Gambit To Shear The IPO Sheep
Submitted by David Stockman via Contra Corner blog,
That was quick! Last November Snapchat was valued at $2 billion in the private VC market; by Q1 that had risen to $7 billion; and yesterday it soared to $10 billion. Gaining $8 billion in market value in just nine months is quite a feat under any circumstance - but that’s especially notable if you’re are a company with no profits, no revenues and no business model.
And, yes, that’s not to mention the “product”, either. Apparently, Snapchat’s 100 million teenage and college users mostly swap pics of their private parts which vanish after 15 seconds - or so they think. In that respect, Snapchat’s business challenge may not be lack of “demand”, but whether its exhibitionist “customers” will be copasetic with sharing their 15 seconds of fame with advertisers.
Time will tell, unfortunately. In the meantime, however, its evident that Snapchat’s spectacular valuation rise is not about how to discount the potential value stream from monetizing dirty pictures. Instead, it reflects the crazy dynamics of late stage financial bubbles. And on that score, Wolf Richter has hit the nail squarely on the head, as usual.
As he explains in today’s post, Snapchat’s spectacular valuation run-up is just a new and more sophisticated form of “pump and dump”. In this instance, the venture capital firms involved have apparently invested trivial amounts of chump change in the two recent funding rounds in order to peg dramatically higher paper valuations in preparation for an imminent IPO. In numeric terms they have invested less than $30 million since last November, meaning that they have been able to leverage an $8 billion valuation gain at a ratio of 266:1.
By strategically deploying less than $30 million, KPCB, and DST Global before it, have ratcheted up Snapchat’s valuation from $2 billion to $10 billion. With the stroke of a pen, in a deal negotiated behind closed doors, they have created an additional $8 billion in “wealth” that is now percolating through the minds of employees with stock options and through the books of the early investment funds.
To be sure, Wall Street has sponsored such market-rigging ploys since time immemorial. However, the true evil of rampant central bank money printing is that it vastly enables and amplifies such speculative ventures, while at the same time eviscerating the natural checks and balances against speculative manias which are embedded in honest financial markets.