Apple made headlines this weekend for donating 20 million face masks and working to make 1 million face shields a week to address the shortage of protective equipment for health care workers treating coronavirus patients.
But it’s also been busy doing something else. Namely, acquiring startups.
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On April 3, Bloomberg reported the tech behemoth had acquired Voysis, an artificial intelligence startup that developed a platform for digital voice assistants to better understand people’s natural language. The price it paid for the Irish startup, which is believed will help continue to improve Siri, was not disclosed. According to Crunchbase data, Voysis had raised $8 million since it was founded in 2012.
And on March 31, it was announced that Apple had acquired weather app DarkSky, which was not venture-backed.
Then reports over the weekend emerged that Apple had picked up another startup, NextVR, for about $100 million. An acquisition has not yet been confirmed, but a variety of Apple-focused news outlets reported the news, including 9to5mac.com, which broke it.
Newport Beach, California-based NextVR has a decade of experience marrying virtual reality with sports and entertainment, notes 9to5mac.com. It currently provides VR experiences for viewing live events with headsets from big players such as PlayStation and Microsoft.
NextVR has raised about $115.5 million in venture funding since its 2009 inception, according to Crunchbase data. Its last raise was an $80 million Series B, which closed in 2016 and was led by China’s CITIC Group. Other investors in the company include Comcast Ventures, Formation 8, RSE Ventures and Time Warner Investments.
According to 9to5mac.com, NextVR “failed to secure a Series C round of funding in early 2019, however, which resulted in a 40% staff reduction at the time. NextVR’s focus on virtual reality was seen as a risk with the rise of augmented reality technology.”
I’ve reached out to the company for comment and will update this story if I hear back.
In the meantime, we thought this would be a good time to take a look at Apple’s acquisition activity. In 2020 so far, the iPhone-maker has acquired three companies: the aforementioned DarkSky and Voysis, and AI-on-the-edge startup Xnor.ai (which we reported on here). NextVR would mark its fourth pickup this year. In all of 2019, Apple acquired eight companies, according to Crunchbase data. So if this latest report is accurate, Apple has acquired, by early April, half the number of companies it acquired in all of 2019. And, three of those acquisitions would have taken place in the past week alone.
Disclosure: The reporter’s husband is an employee of Apple.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias