Skype to Buy Messaging App GroupMe

Competition heats up in group messaging game

As the group messaging market heats up, Skype announced yesterday that it is buying GroupMe, a popular smartphone app that allows users to send texts and make conference calls with groups of friends.

GroupMe was founded in 2010 and has already raised $11.5 million from Lerer Ventures and other VC investors. Sources told The Wall Street Journal that Skype purchased the New York-based startup for about $80 million.

Skype’s latest acquisition will face some competition from Google, Facebook, and Apple, which are all also entering the group messaging arena with new apps designed to circumvent traditional texting (and possibly threaten its very existence).

“We think the mobile group messaging space is very important,” Skype CEO Tony Bates told the WSJ. “It means furthering the breaking down of barriers to global communications.”

Bates said that the GroupMe acquisition will help Skype develop its mobile and PC communications services. For now, the two companies will operate independently, and GroupMe’s apps will still be available. But at some point, he said, Skype and GroupMe will combine their technologies.

Meanwhile, Skype is preparing for its own takeover by Microsoft. The U.S. FTC has already approved the deal, but it’s still awaiting a green light from the European Commission, said Bates.