Snapchat maker Snap Inc. is losing one of its longest-serving executives at a time when the struggling Santa Monica company has seen its stock hit an all-time low.
Chief strategy officer, Imran Khan, told employees in an e-mail Monday he would be leaving after helping Snap find his replacement — another in a string of high-profile departures. That replacement will have a new title, chief business officer, that will oversee revenue, content and partnerships, the company said.
“There is never a perfect time to say goodbye, but I know that the time is now,” Khan wrote. “We have a stellar leadership team in place to guide Snap through the next phase of growth and on to the next chapter.”
Khan will launch a technology investment firm, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Khan was hired by Snap in 2015 after serving as a banker for Credit Suisse. Within months of his hiring, his connections in the technology industry helped the company behind the messaging app land a $200-million investment from Chinese internet giant Alibaba.
Khan played an instrumental role in Snap’s initial public offering in 2017 and led the company’s transition this past year into a more lucrative automated advertising business model over using a sales team. Under his watch, Snap grew from just a few dozen employees to more than 3,000 operating in 13 countries.
“Imran has been a great partner building our business. We appreciate all of his hard work and wish him the best,” said Evan Spiegel, Snap’s co-founder and chief executive officer.
Yet Khan’s legacy will remain mixed. The company has struggled to impress Wall Street. Snap’s stock has tanked from a high of $27.09 after its much-hyped IPO to $9.74 at the close Monday, down 1.9% from its Friday close.
The company has faced major headwinds since it redesigned Snapchat late last year following longstanding criticism that it was too hard to navigate. But the changes didn’t go over well, even sparking a Change.org petition with 1.2 million signatories.
In May, Snap tweaked the redesign and put content back into reverse-chronological order, as it had been since Snapchat first went live. The damage was done, however. Snap reported its first quarter-on-quarter decline in daily active users when it released its second-quarter financial results last month.
The company has long felt it was being unfairly compared to Facebook, whose Instagram notoriously copies Snapchat’s most popular features, such as Stories. Instagram has about 500 million daily active users to Snapchat’s 188 million.
Snap sees itself more as a camera company than a social media platform. It encourages its users to be creative by playing with its augmented reality tools rather than passively watch other people’s content.
Spiegel has admitted in the past his company has struggled to communicate how Snapchat stands out and has asked skeptics to remain patient.
That hasn’t stopped the exodus of executives over the years. Nine executives have now left Snap since its IPO in March, 2017.
In May, chief financial officer Drew Vollero departed and was replaced by Amazon.com Inc. veteran Tim Stone. Snap’s vice president of product, Tom Conrad, also left earlier this year. Conrad, who was reportedly one of Spiegel’s closest lieutenants, told the publication TechCrunch that he was planning to leave the tech industry all together.
Snap says the turnover is not reflective of a company in chaos, but rather the regular churn of a young firm finding its footing.
None of the departures is more important than Khan, who was a high-ranking equity analyst at JP Morgan before landing at Credit Suisse. Snap was willing to pay for that level of experience. In 2016, Khan’s compensation totaled $5.5 million, according to a filing made with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year ahead of Snap’s IPO.
“It’s hard to tell if [Khan’s] departure is a function of their weakness, a function of the limited upside for an employee given where the stock is or better opportunities elsewhere,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst for Pivotal Research Group. “The reality is that Snap is a niche platform, and to the extent that it is, it’s doing OK.”
In an SEC filing Monday, Snap said Khan would be leaving the company to “pursue other opportunities” and that he confirmed with the firm that his move was “not related to any disagreement with us on any matter relating to our accounting, strategy, management, operations, policies, or practices (financial or otherwise).”