Snapchat is on the hunt for a wide range of hardware acquisitions, as it seeks to further its new mission of creating cameras that can capture a wealth of pictures and videos and funnel them into its social networks.
Over the past year or so, the companylooked at a number of startups building drones, wearable cameras, and augmented reality/virtual reality applications, according to multiple sources familiar with its M&A strategy.
For example, Snap Inc. has talked with Berkeley-based drone company, Lily Robotics, over the last few months. No deal is on the table, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, but that doesn’t mean it’s ruled out in the future either.
Snapchat also talked with wearable camera company Narrative about an acquisition, according to other people familiar with the situation. The talks also fell through with the Sweden-based company, which briefly shut down its operations before recently starting up again.
Both deal talks point to the newly-rebranded company’s investment in its new mission statement: “Snap Inc. is a camera company.”
Snap released its first hardware product, sunglasses equipped with a video camera, in November. The $129 Spectacles allow the wearer to capture short video snippets which can be easily uploaded to the Snapchat service and shared with friends. That product was the result of a 2014 acquisition of Vergence Labs.
Vergence had also been working on a gesture-controlled drone before it was acquired by Snapchat. Drones represent a particularly intriguing possibility for Snapchat.
The selfie problem
Lily Robotics could potentially solve Snap’s obsession with the selfie problem. According to sources familiar with Snap’s ambitions, it’s trying to find different ways for consumers to take selfies that don’t require someone holding a camera in hand. Lily’s drone, for example, can be thrown into the air and automatically tracks and follows its owner, shooting video. That could be especially handy for sports, like snowboarding or surfing, where a drone can capture the footage while a person is in action. Lily Robotics and Narrative did not respond to request for comment from Business Insider. Snap declined comment.
And the company isn’t only interested in small cameras – Snapchat has apparently met most of the major augmented reality or virtual reality startups, including ones focused on building cameras to enhance virtual realities. As one early stage investor put it: every VR or AR startup the investor met with had already talked to Snapchat six months earlier.
Still, Snap’s acquisitions happen in secret so if it has purchased a drone or wearable company the news hasn’t been released. Only seven purchases have leaked in the press – and some only because of the giant Sony hack in 2014 that exposed Snap board member Michael Lynton’s email.
Yet, the secretive company is clearly regularly engaged in talks with startups about acquisitions and acqui-hires throughout many industries. As the company prepares for a $25 billion IPO in 2017, its dealmaking will increasingly be in the spotlight.
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