When you were young, didn't your parents always tell you to always be yourself?
It's not so clear cut in the world of business and investing, though. "Pivot" is somewhat of a stigmatizing word in Silicon Valley, because start-ups only pivot after their initial ideas fail. But pivots can be successful if the company can embrace and learn from its early failures. Following a year of operational missteps and poor execution, GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) now finds itself in the midst of its own pivot. Meanwhile, Snap is pushing into camera hardware with Spectacles, although it's not clear if this should be considered a pivot in the traditional sense since we have no idea how its core ad business is faring as a private company.
Still, I find it highly interesting that each company wants to essentially become the other. Maybe they should just merge.
GoPro wants to be Snap
It turns out that the market for action cameras isn't as robust as GoPro and its investors once thought. Hardware sales have slumped as GoPro has yet to expand beyond its niche customer base, while new products aren't compelling enough to spur meaningful upgrades within that base. Its efforts to diversify its revenue into software, services, and entertainment/media have mostly fallen flat (especially the media aspirations). Software and services remain a work in progress.
Last year, the action-camera maker made it clear that it didn't want to be referred to as an action-camera maker any longer; it wanted a new identity. At least in early 2016, that hopeful identity was "the world's leading activity-capture company," according to CEO Nick Woodman on an earnings call. More recently, GoPro has crystallized what it actually wants to be. The company now refers to itself as a "storytelling" company, with action cameras being but a piece of that "end-to-end storytelling solution."
Snap wants to be GoPro
Back in 2013, Snapchat launched Stories, a way to share ephemeral photos in a narrative way. Stories quickly became one of the fledgling social media platform's most popular features (which is in part why larger rivals are replicating it). Over the past few years, Snapchat had become a storytelling company. You'd see headlines like "Why Snapchat Is the Greatest New Storytelling Tool," "How to Master the Art of Storytelling on Snapchat," and "Is Snapchat the Future of Storytelling?" There are more. Snapchat's news blog used to frequently discuss ways to tell stories on the platform.
Last year (coincidence?), Snap surprised its users by releasing Spectacles, a pair of cheesy-looking sunglasses with integrated cameras meant to capture Snaps with. If you watch the launch video, it's almost like the video is being captured with a low-end GoPro. In no uncertain terms, Snap now proclaims on its website: "Snap Inc. is a camera company."
A Fool can dream
Snap is eyeing a $25 billion IPO valuation, while GoPro's market cap has fallen to a mere $1.3 billion, so this theoretical deal would entail Snap acquiring the smaller GoPro. It's too early to tell if Snap will be an enduring business worth investing in, but investors should get a glimpse of its financials within a matter of months. Social media investors are wary given the lessons learned from another struggling social media company that went public not long ago. It's possible that Snap suffers the same fate: incredible hype and strong initial growth followed almost immediately by plateauing operating metrics.
To be clear, I don't actually think these two companies should merge. The idea is just immensely entertaining. If GoPro wants to become Snapchat and Snapchat wants to become GoPro, this could be a match made in Silicon Valley. Snapchat has strengths in software and services with its social media platform, while GoPro has strengths in hardware (Karma recall notwithstanding). Together, they could be the world's leading camera/storytelling company.
Evan Niu, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GoPro. The Motley Fool has the following options: short January 2019 $12 calls on GoPro and long January 2019 $12 puts on GoPro. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.