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Snap, parent company of Snapchat, filed today for its highly anticipated IPO PHOTO: Siobhan Fagan

The wait is over.

Snapchat's parent company, Snap Inc., unveiled its initial public offering prospectus [PDF] Thursday night. Venice, Calif-based Snap confidentially filed for the IPO in November under rules for emerging companies with revenues of less than $1 billion. This debut is the first time potential investors have gotten solid information about the company’s financials. 

Some of the numbers are, not surprisingly, typical of a startup — even a widely popular one. 

The company posted a loss of $514.6 million in 2016, greater than its $372.9 million loss the previous year. It had 158 million daily active users in the fourth quarter of 2016 and the average revenue per user was $1.05 for that quarter, compared to $0.31 for the same period in 2015. Engagement was strong, with time spent on the site at 25 to 30 minutes a day per user.

And oh yes, there was this: Snap now has $404.5 million in advertising, a little over two years after it began monetizing its site.

The company is looking to raise up to $3 billion. It is widely expected to seek a $20 billion market valuation from investors.

'A Camera Company'

From the very start of its prospectus, Snap makes clear how it sees its widely popular product. "Snap Inc. is a camera company," the filing began. "We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way that people live and communicate."

"In the way that the flashing cursor became the starting point for most products on desktop computers, we believe that the camera screen will be the starting point for most products on smartphones. This is because images created by smartphone cameras contain more context and richer information than other forms of input like text entered on a keyboard. This means that we are willing to take risks in an attempt to create innovative and different camera products that are better able to reflect and improve our life experiences."

An Array of Products

Snap outlined its array of products, which are focused on its camera concept. There is the flagship product, Snapchat, which according to the company 158 million people use daily, creating more than 2.5 billion Snaps. Snapchat has a number of tools including Lenses, Geofilters and Bitmojis "that allow our community to express themselves through Snaps." 

For the uninitiated:

  • Lenses are interactive animations that are overlaid on a person’s face or the world around them
  • Geofilters are artistic filters that can be applied after a Snap is taken at pre-defined times and locations
  • Bitmojis creates cartoon likenesses of a user

"On average, more than 60 percent of our Daily Active Users create Snaps with our Camera every day. This means that our Chat Service and Storytelling Platform products are always full of new, unique and expressive Snaps," the filing said.

Chat Service now includes text-based Chat, video and voice calling, stickers, Bitmojis, and Group Chat, it noted. The prospectus also offered a primer on the Storytelling Platform and Memories features as well. 

The Risk Factors

The prospectus includes the obligatory list of risk factors. Not surprisingly Snapchat cited intense competition as a risk. Interestingly, it is did not give names.

If it did, Facebook’s Instagram would surely have topped of the list. The site is widely believed to be siphoning away Snapchat's users at an increasing rate ever since it launched its own ephemeral storytelling product: Stories. 

Snapchat did make a nod, of sorts, to this development, although it again did not name names.

"If we do not develop successful new products or improve existing ones, our business will suffer," it noted duly as it cited its risks.

The IPO will mark the first by a social media company since Twitter's in 2013. The company will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "SNAP."