Snapchat IPO brings windfall to St. Francis High School | March 10, 2017 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - March 10, 2017

Snapchat IPO brings windfall to St. Francis High School

School reaps millions following early investment in the social media company

by Kevin Forestieri

It was a day of celebration at St. Francis High School, after an early $15,000 investment in the popular messaging app Snapchat paid off big time — the company's successful initial public offering (IPO) last Thursday left the school with 2 million stock shares worth tens of millions of dollars.

In a letter to the community Thursday, March 2, St. Francis officials announced that the Mountain View private high school is heading into "exciting and humbling times" following the largest U.S. IPO in years. Although the school hasn't announced the exact dollar amount it has picked up following Snap Inc. going public, the initial offering was set at $17 a share, and closed at the end of Thursday's trading at $24.48.

It's through a stroke of good luck and smart planning that St. Francis was able to join early investors back in 2012, said Kevin Makley, the former president of the school. Makley said the school set up a special venture fund for the school — called the SF Growth Fund — in 1990 in order for St. Francis to generate additional revenue. The fund was set up with the help of two Sand Hill venture capitalists, B.J. Cassin and Sam Colella, who were parents of students at the time.

"These guys not only helped start it, they brought in all the monetary resources to get this up and running," Makley said.

Since then, the small fund has been investing in private companies with varying levels of success over the years, with the biggest success story in 1996 when the school made a $2.1 million return on a $25,000 investment in the company Advanced Fiber. In 2012, one of the growth fund committee members, St. Francis parent Barry Eggers, suggested that the school get in on a deal to invest in Snapchat after seeing his children and other teens at the school using the messaging app.

"The end result is, my goodness, a very successful IPO this morning," Makley said. "It's a great, great day for St. Francis, and It's a dream come true for me and the guys who helped get this going in the first place."

St. Francis president Simon Chiu said the campus staff have been buzzing with excitement over the news, and that it's been great to finally share details about the IPO now that the company has gone public. Early news stories had circulated that the school stood to make millions off the company going public, but they weren't in a position to comment. But on Thursday, even students were picking up on the excitement.

"It's something that everyone can relate to," Chiu said. "Most of them probably use Snapchat and have that kind of connection through that."

So what's the school going to do with all that cash? Chiu said it will ultimately be up to the school board to decide how to allocate the money, but there are some big-picture plans for how to spend it. The first is to bolster the school's endowment fund to help fund financial aid for families — something that Chiu called a mission-critical plan.

"We want to make this education accessible to as many students and families as possible," he said.

The money will also be put towards more resources for faculty and staff, the schools' "innovative" programs and the school's buildings and infrastructure.

"The way we've described it is that we're going to be accelerating the work that we do. It's really going to celebrate the plans that we have in our strategic plan," he said. "And if we're good stewards over these resources, then we're going to maximize this big investment."

Email Kevin Forestieri at kforestieri@mv-voice.com

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