Skype Tackles Group Messaging With GroupMe Acquisition

It's the second mobile market-focused acquisition made this year by Skype, which is itself in the process of being acquired by Microsoft.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, although All Things D on Sunday reported Skype will pay about $85 million. GroupMe, which has received more than $11 million in two rounds of venture capital funding, was founded in April 2010 and launched the first version of its application shortly after.

"Skype and GroupMe have a shared vision of creating applications and experiences that are the daily communications choice for a billion people," said Tony Bates, Skype's CEO, in a statement. "We will continue to seek the top talent and technology to make that vision a reality."

The GroupMe application allows users to text and make conference calls with groups of contacts. The acquisition puts Skype in closer competition with group messaging services such as Facebook Messenger and Google's Huddle, as well as Apple's iMessage, which includes group messaging features in iOS 5, and Research In Motion's BlackBerry Messenger.

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The space has been a magnet for M&A activity; Facebook acquired a GroupMe competitor, Beluga, earlier this year, and Google bought Slide, which offers group messaging capabilities, last August.

All of GroupMe's 20 employees will join Skype and stay based in New York, according to a blog post from GroupMe, which said the acquisition was decided after Skype and GroupMe had initially discussed commercial partnerships.

"With a shared vision -- an ambitious one -- we decided our efforts to own real-time communications and the real life network could be best executed as one company," read the blog post.

Skype in January acquired Qik, a specialist in mobile video services. In a Sunday blog post touching on the GroupMe deal, Bates suggested both acquisitions give Skype a leg up in driving "unique mobile user experiences."

"The GroupMe team has created an incredibly sticky group messaging experience that works across mobile devices and platforms, making it a perfect addition to our voice, video and text products," Bates wrote. "We're excited about introducing their disruptive product to our global user base."