SAN FRANCISCO – It's an only in Silicon Valley kind of story: A well-to-do private Catholic high school makes a $15,000 investment five years ago in the company developing the Snapchat app, holds onto it for years and ends up with a windfall of $24 million.
One well-connected parent, Barry Eggers, made it happen for the Catholic St. Francis High School by convincing the school's board to take a risk on Snap Inc., which had a blockbuster initial public stock offering Thursday
Snap launched which launched the Shapchat app that teens and young adults love to use to send photos and videos that disappear a few seconds after recipients see them.
Barry Eggers, is a partner at Lightspeed Venture partners, the venture capital firm that invested in Snapchat when its founder was still a student at Stanford University.
He had a child attending St. Francis in 2012, when the board of the high school in Mountain View agreed to invest the seed money in Snap.
Few, if any other schools, have that sort of advantage, said Stephen Andriole, a professor of business, accountancy and information systems at the Villanova School of Business in Pennsylvania.
"The only way to do this is through a personal relationship," he said. "The probability of success is quite low."
Snap's shares sold for $17 each in in its initial public offering and St. Francis sold 1.4 million shares at that price ,generating a gain of about $24 million.
The stock soared to about $27 as of Friday, making the remaining 600,000 shares that the school owns worth about $16 million.
"I think everyone understands it's a pretty transformational event for our school," school president Simon Chiu said in an interview.
Chiu acknowledged the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time.
"Our kids are understanding that it's pretty exciting to live out in Silicon Valley," said Chiu. "It's hard to imagine it happening anywhere else. If you work hard and do the right things, sometimes luck will find you."
Andriole and other experts did not know whether investing in startup companies when they are in their early stages is a growing trend at private high schools.
Universities have established venture capital funds, so it's possible that there has been a "trickledown effect," he said.
But St. Francis' big gain could inspire schools to try to get into the investments.
To do so, they would have to reach out to venture capital fund partners, asking for permission to invest in targeted small companies trying to turn technology innovations into hit products.
The problem, Andriole said, is that most of those companies end up losing money.