DISRUPTED - Chegg (CHGG) Stock Drops 50% on ChatGPT Impact

Well, it happened. The first public company to be directly impacted by ChatGPT just reported results, and they are not pretty. Chegg's stock is down 43% in premarket trading after reporting Q1 results last night [pdf]. Here's a quick summary of what happened and what you should learn from it.

Although you probably remember Chegg as the company that disrupted the textbook market, in recent years, most of their revenue has been coming from online services. For example, a subscription service where students can get help with homework. Chegg has an incredibly talented leadership team and has shown more than once the ability to reinvent their business to respond to fast-moving market trends. Unfortunately, the generative AI tsunami was too much even for them. At the beginning of the year, Chegg didn't notice any impact on its business from ChatGPT. However, by March, they noticed a slowdown in subscriptions as more and more students expressed interest in using it. As a result, their total revenue decreased by 7% from last year.

Interestingly enough, Chegg was not caught flat-footed by ChatGPT's impact. In fact, as their CEO described, they have an aggressive plan for leveraging AI and even launched a new service called CheggMate to take advantage of it. Their CEO describes the planning they did and how they met with Sam Altman of OpenAI personally to help put together their plan for leveraging GPT technology in their business. I would imagine that the CEO and the entire executive staff are shocked by the market's response. They were probably hoping for a positive reception of their plans for leveraging AI in their business, and they have what seems to be a pretty good strategy. Unfortunately, investors just aren't buying it, and I can understand why. Regardless of how well they execute, Chegg is going to be facing incredible headwinds as it attempts to compete with the Cambrian explosion of educational tools and services – mostly free - that are going to emerge from the ecosystem built around large language models like GPT-4.

So what should you take from this example? Two words: start now. Too many companies are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see what happens, constantly watching the market, and looking for the trends before they start to make bets. I can actually promise you this is just the beginning of a trend, and every quarter we are going to see more and more companies that are going to report negative results or opportunities from this disruptive technology. Whether your organization stands among the winners or the potential losers depends on how quickly and how aggressively you start taking action.

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