As Apple continues to diversify its revenue base away from iPhone-derived sales, the company is picking up startups. The Cupertino-based hardware giant acquired two this past week, a notable pace for the technology shop.
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Apple, like the rest of the companies that complete the Big Five, likes to buy smaller companies from time to time. Buying smaller companies allows cash-rich companies to trade checking-account rounding-errors for access to interesting personnel, new tech, and nascent markets. All that at a dollar cost that doesn’t even begin to impact cash hoards.
According to Crunchbase, Apple in its lifetime has acquired 105 companies. The tech giant has been particularly acquisitive since the beginning of 2018, making nine acquisitions over the past year, including two mentioned startup buys in the past week alone.
Here’s what you need to know about Apple’s two most recent deals:
On Feb. 15, 2019, Apple acquired PullString (formerly ToyTalk), an eight-year-old AI voice startup that has raised $44.8 million from the likes of Greylock Partners, First Round Capital and Khosla Ventures. According to TechCrunch, the company gives Apple “the talent it needs to make talking toys a part of Siri, HomePod and its voice strategy.”
One day before the PullString deal was announced, Apple also picked up UK-based DataTiger, a three-year-old digital marketing startup that had raised an undisclosed seed round in 2017. A Bloomberg piece noted that the buy could “boost the company’s (Apple’s) digital marketing and make it more relevant to customers.” Indeed, 9to5Mac points out that DataTiger claims to put “data to work,” and thus increase marketing retention and monetization.
While Apple and its compatriots wage Titanomachy against the rising decacorn class, every cohort of the largest tech shops like to buy smaller firms. Indeed, our own Jason Rowley recently took a dive through the acquisition patterns of unicorns. Among his findings was the fact that, at least concerning known deals, Airbnb, Automattic, and Pinterest were the most acquisitive as of this February.
Whether or not Apple will continue its startup spree isn’t clear (we wouldn’t bet on it), but if it did, it could help provide some middle-market liquidity to the startup market that has been lacking since Yahoo stopped buying everything that couldn’t stand on its own two feet.
One can dream.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias