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Snap has sold about 150,000 of its camera glasses, called Spectacles, CEO Evan Spiegel said on Tuesday.
Spiegel spoke to author Walter Isaacson at Vanity Fair's fourth annual New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills, California. But while Spiegel said the sales figure far exceeded internal expectations for the product, Isaacson argued it seemed like the device wasn't catching on.
Snap, which makes the ephemeral messaging app Snapchat, has rebranded itself as a "camera company." But at least as of May, it seemed like its much-hyped camera device wasn't making a mark on Snap's business, which is funded mostly by advertising on Snapchat.
In May, Snap said its $130 augmented reality and camera glasses generated a little more than $8 million in revenue during the quarter — out of total revenue of $150 million — which would have indicated sales of about 61,500 units of the Spectacles if they were sold at full price.
Spiegel's comments on Tuesday indicated that Spectacle unit sales are now higher — a figure he's proud of, given that Apple's iPod had about 143,000 net unit sales in its first full year, 2002. For Snap, the glasses are a way to build expertise in the hardware field, in anticipation of greater adoption in the next ten years — "so many things" are coming for Spectacles, he said.
But Spiegel conceded that he's had trouble selling parts of his long-term vision to investors, not just when it comes to Spectacles.
"One of the things I did underestimate was how much more important communication becomes," Spiegel said. "When you go public… you really need to explain to a huge new investor base, right – instead of having 10 new investors, you have 10,000 – you have to explain how your business works. And at the same time you need to do that, there are also all these new regulations about what you can and cannot say and how you can communicate. So I think one of the things we've been going through this year is how to communicate the Snap story."
Spiegel had an awkward exchange with Wall Street analysts in August, when a hot mic caught an analyst describing how it was difficult to understand Spiegel's answer to a question. While Snap's IPO saw big gains out of the gate, shares have fallen more than 34 percent over the past six months.
"I think investors are fearful, and fear is a powerful motivator – they're fearful we'll never be profitable, or they're fearful that competition will kill us or something like that," Spiegel said. "But I think those are kind of normal fears for any start-up – and the really successful companies just grow through that. And that's why we've just tried to stay focused on the business this year and execute and deliver results."
--Additional reporting by Leanne Miller