Snapchat projects calm after strategy officer’s exit

The platform has shed many users after an ill-conceived redesign and rival Instagram’s rising popularity. Now Imran Khan is moving on—and the company is trying not to spook investors.

Few Snapchat executives remain from the days of its high-flying promise after the initial public offering.

Those ranks will further decline with the departure of Imran Khan, who, as chief strategy officer, helped shepherd the company through that IPO.

Khan is stepping down to pursue other projects but will stay with the company until a successor is found.

The departure is the latest in a slew of exits by top executives at the struggling company.

Vanity Fair reported:

In May, Snap Chief Financial Officer Drew Vollero stepped down to pursue other opportunities, and in July, the company’s vice president of hardware, Mark Randall, left to start his own company. Other departures have included head of sales Jeff Lucas who reportedly stepped down to “pursue a new challenge”; Chris Handman, the company’s first general counsel; Tim Sehn, Snap’s senior V.P. of engineering; and V.P. of product Tom Conrad.

Nor have the departures been confined to the c-suite. From March to April, Snap cut 7 percent of its global workforce in layoffs that spanned its advertising, content, engineering, and sales teams.

Fears inside and outside the company are making their way into news articles. Vanity Fair continued:

The hunt for Khan’s replacement is reportedly ongoing. But the deeper fear is that Khan’s departure is only a symptom of a more existential rot at Snap—one that begins and ends with the company’s reticent, 28-year-old C.E.O. and his failure to out-maneuver the competition. “It’ll make a big difference who they hire without a doubt,” the Snap insider told me. But “at the end of the day, it’s [founder Evan Spiegel’s] company—both literally from a governance structure standpoint and figuratively in terms of the influence he has.”

An internal memo has surfaced from Khan, lauding what Snapchat has achieved and denying that the departure is because of any personal disagreement with colleagues.

Bloomberg published the memo, which read in part:

After nearly four years at Snap, I have decided to step down. This has been a very difficult decision for me to make. There is never a perfect time to say goodbye, but I know that the time is now. We have a stellar leadership team in place to guide Snap through the next phase of growth and on to the next chapter.

I am really proud of what we achieved as a team. In less than four years, we grew our revenue from nearly zero to over $1 billion on an annualized run rate. Along the road, we also hired more than 3,000 people and expanded our operations to over 13 countries around the world.

Snap is an amazing company. The passion that each team member has for the products we build, the experiences we create, and the community we support is unlike anything I’ve seen throughout my career. It has resulted in groundbreaking products and formats that truly disrupted the mobile industry. I am so proud of what this remarkable team has and continues to accomplish.

Spiegel was characteristically terse in his laudatory message about Khan.

The New York Times reported:

“We won’t miss a beat during this period,” Mr. Khan wrote in a companywide email about his departure obtained by The Times. “And you will be left in better hands than my own.”

Mr. Spiegel, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement that Mr. Khan had “been a great partner building our business.”

“We appreciate all of his hard work and wish him the best,” he added.

Khan was essential in turning the social platform—with its disappearing content and its “Stories”—into a profitable enterprise.

The New York Times wrote:

Mr. Khan came to Snap in 2015. He was in charge of turning a hot social-networking start-up into a durable company. Analysts likened his role to that of Sheryl Sandberg, who joined Facebook in 2008 to handle business roles like advertising sales.

Among Mr. Khan’s chief responsibilities was to build an advertising business for a platform built on disappearing videos favored by young people. His response: building up a sales staff and helping develop new kinds of ads that fit on Snapchat’s platform, including so-called lenses that let users add computer-generated images onto their photos and videos.

By last year, Snap’s advertising operations generated roughly $829 million in revenue, and it is expected to collect some $1 billion this year.

Vanity Fair wrote:

“You can’t underestimate the importance of Imran to Snapchat over the last three and a half years. He really was integral to everything,” one source close to Snapchat told me. “I think he went there thinking his role would be more C.F.O.-type versus really having operational responsibility for the company.”

The move creates doubts about the future of the social media company, with many seeing the organization in turmoil.

Bloomberg wrote:

In case there was any question before now, Snapchat has confirmed that it is a one-man show — co-founder/CEO/shy emperor Evan Spiegel — and he has made a hash of his company. Snapchat is having trouble increasing the number of app users, its upended advertising business isn’t growing as fast as investors expected, it continues to bleed cash prodigiously, its external and internal strategy communications have been poor, and it is a paragon of shoddy corporate governance.

How would you advise Snapchat to steady the ship, PR Daily readers?

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