Snapchat IPO

The Snap IPO means a huge payday for two VC firms

Snap's first investor: Powerful when a company 'becomes a verb'
Snap's first investor: Powerful when a company 'becomes a verb'

Shares in Snapchat parent Snap — which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday — delivered a huge payday to the company's two biggest outside investors.

Snap set its IPO price at $17, then immediately started trading at $24 per share Thursday, giving the company a market capitalization of about $33 billion — about the same size as Target and Marriott — and putting the company in the top third of the S&P 500.

The biggest winners after the company's two founders, CEO Evan Spiegel and CTO Bobby Murphy, were venture capital firms Benchmark and Lightspeed, which held a combined 20 percent of the company prior to the IPO.

According to an updated S-1 filing, Benchmark holds more than 120 million shares, worth over $2.9 billion at Snap's opening market price. It was scheduled to sell 10.7 million shares in the IPO, worth $181 million at the IPO price of $17 per share.

The firm — also an early backer of public Twitter and richly valued private Uber — led a $13.5 million round in 2013 at a $70 million valuation. That's a return of over 220 times on its investment (at least on paper).

Lightspeed Venture Partners holds nearly 82 million shares worth just less than $2 billion. It was scheduled to sell 4.6 million shares worth $79 million at the start of trading.

The firm was the first outside investor in Snap, investing $485,000 in a seed round in 2012 and then followed on in future rounds, for a total investment of $8.1 million according to the firm. So its return on that investment is over 250 times (on paper).

Snap marks Lightspeed's third exit in less than six months — it made early bets on Nutanix, which went public in September and is now worth about $4.5 billion, and AppDynamics, acquired by Cisco for $3.7 billion in January. It's also an investor in MuleSoft, which filed to go public in February.

General Catalyst didn't do too badly today either — it holds more than 10 million shares worth $243 million and was scheduled to sell 572,904 shares worth $9.7 million. The firm invested in Snap's 2013 Series B funding round.

Angel investing firm SV Angel also retains a stake worth $57.5 million at the opening price.

Other institutional investors that made early bets on Snap, but whose holdings are not specified in the company's S-1, include Institutional Venture Partners, which led its second big financing — a $60 million funding round in 2013 at an $800 million valuation — and hedge fund Coatue Management, which led a $54.5 million funding round in 2014 at a $2 billion valuation.

These venture capitalists, other outside investors and Spiegel and Murphy stand to make even more money down the line.

Insiders are restricted from selling stock during the lock-up period which extends for five months after the IPO. That can be a volatile time for tech companies. Facebook traded sharply lower in its first half year on the market before bouncing back.

The offering was a welcome return for venture investors, following the slowest year for IPOs since the financial crisis.

— With reporting from CNBC's Ari Levy