Thursday, February 01, 2018

Deals in Media & Tech - Jan 2018

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I will be reviewing some of the deals in media and tech every month.  I'm fascinated these deals because one way to analyse the future direction of the big companies is to look at what sort of companies they are buying.  When I write my trends reports, I often look back at these, as proof that certain fields are generating lots of interest.

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and others are currently very acquisitive.  Each is using their large profits to buy companies that can help them gain competitive advantage in areas like AI, commerce, and delivery, to fill in gaps in their capabilities, and to (maybe) stop others from getting hold of the companies or key employees.

Nothing in January was as high profile as Disney’s deal proposed deal to buy Fox, or Westfield’s sale ot Unibail, or even Apple’s purchase of Shazam, which all happened in December.  However there were still lots of M&A action, and here are some of the more interesting.

Facebook bought Confirm.io, a company that uses biometrics to quickly verify people’s identities.  Real identity is at the core of Facebook’s value - while MySpace let you choose an identity, Facebook knew that real IDs would be far more valuable to other users (& advertisers) - and this will help them verify people better.

Google bought Redux, a flat panel speaker company.  Flat speakers have attracted lots of attention over the years.  NXT, a UK speaker company, was part of the tech stock boom in the late 1990s, as people get very excited by the idea of how much space in devices, cars etc could be saved if speakers could be flat.  My guess would be that Google will use Redux’s tech in its new devices like phones and smart speakers.  Will everything suddenly get flatter?

‘Mobility’ is a big trend at the moment.  Lots of car companies have bought into, or created their own car sharing schemes, and now BMW has bought Parkmobile, the largest mobile parking operator in the US.  As mobility and cities change, parking is likely to become more important - figures estimate that 30% of traffic is caused by people looking for somewhere to park - and so this is a good, if initially surprising buy.

It’s not a full purchase, but by buying 10% of What3Words, Mercedes will strengthen their position in mapping.  In 2015 Mercedes, together with BMW and Audi, bought Nokia’s mapping technology.  Now this deal takes Mercedes further into location, especially into places like Africa that has less developed maps.  Navigation is vital for lots of things like satnav and autonomous vehicles - I wonder if others will also try to buy into W3W.

Finally, two purchases that show that having an app is increasingly important.  Delivery company InstaCart bought Unata to help it get deeper into the ecommerce ecosystem.  Unata is a Canadian service that helps grocery stores easily build their own storefront app.

Meanwhile, Apple bought Buddybuild, a suite of tools that helps developers rapidly build and debug their own apps.  People always say that Apple’s business is all about selling devices, but on top of this they make an estimated $100m a day from the app store.  Again, anything that will make creating apps easier, and give Apple more control over the ecosystem can only be good for them.

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