Snap shares soared as high as nearly 17% in after-hours trading Thursday after reporting its highest rates of revenue and user growth in four years.
It's not surprising the company grew compared to the same time last year, when advertisers pulled back spending, but Snap's rosy projections for the upcoming quarter suggest the post-pandemic bump wasn't a quirk.
Snap told investors on Thursday it forecasts 58% to 60% year-over-year revenue growth in the third quarter. Share prices approached the record-highs that Snap saw in February following the company's announcement that it anticipates 50% revenue growth for the next several years.
Analysts had expected a big year-over-year jump this quarter as the pandemic subsided and advertisers spent more. Snap nevertheless exceeded expectations, hitting 293 million users and more than doubling revenue.
CEO Evan Spiegel said he expects growth to continue as Snap moves deeper into ecommerce with ongoing investments in features like AR shopping.
Analysts agree that Snap has plenty of room to further monetize that, along with other relatively new features like Maps and Spotlight, the TikTok-like, algorithmically-surfaced video feed that Snap launched in November. The company grew its Spotlight daily active users 49% quarter-over-quarter.
Spiegel told investors Snap is not ready to turn Spotlight into a revenue generator.
"We've done small testing with advertising in Spotlight but for now we're just really focused on the core experience," Spiegel said. "We've got a great roadmap of improvements and we just don't want the team to get distracted, frankly, with monetization at this point."
Snap pulled in $3.35 per user globally, beating Wall Street expectations. Still, that figure still lags behind competitors like Twitter (around $5) and Facebook (over $13). Analysts believe that, too, gives Snap room to grow.
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Famous Birthdays has been cataloguing and ranking internet personalities for nine years and boasts tens of millions of monthly users.
Primarily financed by ads on its site, the 40-person company (including freelancers) is now turning its data into dollars by opening its beta subscription service for a wider launch this week. For an undisclosed fee, users can pay to see an online entertainer's historical rank data on Famous Birthdays as well as lists of whose interest on the site is accelerating.
CEO and founder Evan Britton wouldn't share specifics about the current clients of Famous Birthdays Pro, but said they include three major social platforms, two talent agencies, and two venture-backed companies offering services to creators. He is also targeting brands who work with influencers and music labels on the hunt for the next rising star.
Britton said he has seen value in his data since he witnessed several hundred screaming teens surrounding Ricky Dillon at the 2014 VidCon conference, and then found that the 22-year-old Vine star did not have a Wikipedia or IMDb page. Two years prior, Britton had started Famous Birthdays and he'd seen data from his site suggesting Dillon had an engaged following.
"To see it in the real world was validating," Britton said. "I couldn't wait to get back to work the next day."
Famous Birthdays' search engine now gets as many as a million inquiries per day. It uses that data to decide who should be catalogued on the site and to build weekly rankings of the top 250,000 profiles based on user activity and engagement.
One on-the-rise influencer it identified early was Charli D'Amelio. She conducted her first interview ever at the Famous Birthdays Santa Monica office in 2019. Britton had invited her around the time her ranking on his site had climbed to 20,000. A week prior, Britton said, she'd been ranked around 50,000, and her fast ascent hinted at her rising popularity. The next week, she was ranked 5,000. Today D'Amelio is a veritable queen of the creator economy, whose accolades include her own personally branded drink at Dunkin' Donuts.
Famous Birthdays' data is platform-agnostic, so it tracks user sentiment irrespective of where they come across creators.
"Our platform doesn't care if someone's rising on Netflix, Spotify, TikTok or Pinterest; we're the IMDb that connects it all," Britton said. "When a user leaves TikTok or YouTube or Instagram and comes on Famous Birthdays [to search for an influencer], it's a real sign of intent. Because it's not just that they saw a viral video of someone; they came to us [to find out more]."
In a creator economy centered around platforms that are incentivized to promote their own accolades and keep their data locked up, Famous Birthdays can provide useful information.
"There's something really interesting around who's getting a lot of hype," said Phil Ranta, a creator economy veteran who's managed influencer groups at Facebook, Mobcrush and Studio71. "Because [on specific platforms], it's hard to tell what views are translating into true fandom or what subscriber's a subscriber that's going to stick."
The new product comes as hunger for creators is growing. Social media platforms are throwing around billions of dollars to lure them in. And investors have sunk billions into platforms like Willa and PearPop to amplify the creator economy.
Famous Birthdays has also been expanding geographically. Britton anticipates his new Pro product will be popular for the international versions of his site, including Spanish, Portuguese and the recently launched Japanese and French. Each version has its own segmented data.
"This is a global phenomenon," Britton said.
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As airlines start to pick back up, the demand for fast internet connectivity in travel hubs is expected to become a central concern for travelers. And that bodes well for Boingo Wireless, the Wi-Fi company that might sound vaguely familiar to anyone who's ever been in an airport or a ballpark and needed a network.
In the innovation-obsessed battleground that is the tech world, Boingo is an old, grizzled veteran.
They're an infrastructure company — one of those things that's everywhere but you never notice until it stops working.
With Boingo's networks in use in places including The Hollywood Bowl, the company continues to be a main portal to the digital world for Angelenos and the rest of the world. Boingo claims its networks reach more than one billion consumers a year and there's an upgrade coming, for all those frustrated with bad signals.
Early in June this year, DigitalBridge, a digital infrastructure company based in Boca Raton, FL, purchased the two-decade-old Boingo for $854 million. The move will help the 463-person Westwood-based wireless company build its operational expertise and gain access to capital to "supercharge" its business.
"We're still Boingo. It's business as usual," said Boingo CEO Mike Finley in an email to dot.LA.
But that business is getting a makeover to match the superspeed demands of consumers streaming, texting and sharing posts - often at the same time. Boingo announced last week a new partnership with AT&T to bring the telecommunications giant's new 5G+ technology to 12 airports across America, including John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Chicago O'Hare International.
Of course, the network will only be available to AT&T customers, but Boingo has already partnered with Verizon for similar networks in other airports and unlicensed Wi-Fi options are available at all these airports through Boingo's network.
The company's vision is to remain technology and provider agnostic, said Finley.
But don't expect perfect service.
Both Wi-Fi and cellular signals, at their core, are radio waves. AT&T's 5G+ leverages the shortest end of the radio wave spectrum to deliver extremely fast internet with extremely low latency to large numbers of devices at once. The catch is that these smaller wavelengths do not travel as far and do not penetrate walls or other barriers very well, meaning the technology works best in open indoor spaces. How much of these airports in terms of volume will be covered by 5G+, Finley said, is a matter of how many antennas AT&T chooses to install. "I think they're going to start with the high traffic areas—you know, the gates, where you have three or four hundred people getting ready to board a plane." Food courts and security checkpoints also seem like natural targets, he said Finley.
The other catch is that hardly any devices support 5G+ connectivity yet. "This is a plan for the future," says Dr. Kevin Ramdas, Director at TelecomTRAIN, and a professor at Humber College. Ramdas says that, for now, this announcement is mostly marketing hype since so few users will be able to leverage the power of the new technology. But he also points out that networks and technology are the foundation on which innovation is built. We don't necessarily yet know what applications 5G will allow just like we didn't know that 4G LTE would enable live video streaming. "You can't build services without infrastructure," Ramdas says.
Beyond Wi-Fi Signals
One domain that Finley and Ramdas both see as ripe for 5G is autonomous vehicles. Airports, Finley says, are beginning to explore the concept of robotic cleaners — like an industrial-grade Roomba. The low latency afforded by the next generation Wi-Fi will be critical to keep the robots functioning safely and securely. Finley also thinks the improved network will help airports meet many of the new client demands driven by COVID. Specifically, he points to the new desire for contactless services like venue entry and concessions. With tickets, boarding passes, concession and merchandise orders all moving away from person-to-person models and onto devices, COVID has — in some ways — brought the future here even faster.
For Finley, who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, the move to Los Angeles came organically as he transitioned from Qualcomm's San Diego branch to a CEO at Boingo.
"L.A.'s been incredible. We've built this company up from L.A. What we find as you go across LA and meet with a lot of the tech companies is that it's a great scene." If Finley has his way, he'll be there to keep them connected with the nearly invisible Wi-Fi company with the weird name.
Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously included Los Angeles International Airport and Dodger Stadium among Boingo's clients, as reported by a company representative.