Skype acquires 16 month old group messaging company GroupMe for $85 million

Group messaging is the talk of the town these days. The recent riots in London showed the world how powerful BlackBerry Messnager can be as a tool to organize criminal activity, and in a few short weeks iOS 5 is due to be released and with it iMessage, which is a clone of BBM, except that it works on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. GroupMe is a company that launched in April 2010 at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, received $10.6 million in funding in January of this year, and other than that … there’s not much to say about them since they’re competing in a space that’s completely saturated at the moment. They’re being acquired by Skype for around $85 million. Facebook acquired Beluga in March for many of the same reasons that Skype is purchasing GroupMe, and their recently launched iPhone app that spawned from that acquisition landed with little fanfare. Over on the other side of the pond the hot group messaging company is WhatsApp, which caused the Netherlands to become the first country in Europe to pass a net neutrality law since KPN, the largest wireless operator in the country, was losing a ton of money from lost SMS revenues and wanted to ban WhatsApp traffic from flowing through their network.

We’re really curious to see what Microsoft plans on doing with Skype once the acquisition goes through since there’s a lot of overlap with the work that the MSN team has done. Messaging, video calls, voice calls, even mobile apps, are all things Skype and MSN share in common. Where Skype has the upper hand is that they have paying customers. GroupMe uses SMS, so will Skype make you purchase a Skype number in order to make some extra money?

Too soon to tell, but watch this space, and expect your favorite technology sites to proclaim that SMS is dead again, and again, and again over the next few months.

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