Skype acquires Microsoft BizSpark partner GroupMe

GroupMe -- a startup that has built a cross-phone-platform messaging and conference-call service -- is going to be part of Skype... which is going to be part of Microsoft.

Skype -- a company which is in the midst of being acquired by Microsoft -- announced on August 21 that it is acquiring GroupMe.

I met some of the principals with GroupMe just a couple of months ago. GroupMe, a New-York-based startup, is one of Microsoft's BizSpark partners. BizSpark is a Microsoft promotional program aimed at startups, which provides selected companies with free software, services and marketing/coaching to help them get their fledgling businesses off the ground.

GroupMe offers a messaging and conference call service, which it launched about a year ago. GroupMe officials referred to the service as "your real-life network," and offers users a private chat room on their phones. GroupMe enables users to chat within their groups while circumventing SMS (and thus, not deducting from users' SMS balances).

GroupMe allows users to have multiple "disposable" groups, and works on a variety of phones, including iPhones, Blackberries, Android phones and feature phones. When I talked with company backers a couple of months ago, they were porting their application to Windows Phones, and had big plans for the "Mango" Windows Phone release (allowing users to pin groups to their start menus and obtain real-time notifications).

GroupMe, to me, sounds rather similar to the just-announced Bing "We're In" application, which also allows users to create disposable groups.

Skype and GroupMe are not disclosing terms of the deal, but estimates have the deal valued at more than $50 million.

Microsoft announced its intention in May to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. That purchase has received U.S. antitrust-regulator approval, but has not yet gotten the OK from international regulators.


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