Facebook surprised the tech community yesterday by announcing plans to acquire messaging service WhatsApp, but the shock was largely due to the ridiculous $16 billion (£9.6 billion) price tag – a number that could increase to $19 billion (£11.4 billion) if WhatsApp plays its cards right. (We discuss the insanity of the figure in this article: Why did Facebook pay $19bn for WhatsApp?).
During a conference call with analysts, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said WhatsApp will help Facebook as it continues to transition to a more mobile-focused company. It's an "extremely high-quality product" with strong engagement, he said, and does not get as much attention in the US as it deserves.
WhatsApp also has 450 million very valuable users. That could quickly surge to 1 billion as WhatsApp is adding about 1 million customers per day, Zuckerberg said, and any company with 1 billion users is extremely valuable. Facebook has said time and time again that it aims to connect the world, and now WhatsApp is tasked with helping the social network achieve that goal.
But while Zuck and the gang talk world domination, other tech startups are likely wondering if they too could secure such an enormous sum for their big idea. Inking a billion-dollar deal is the goal of any entrepreneur who heads to Silicon Valley, but are there any firms that could actually make it happen?
In this article, we’ll point out 10 smaller companies that have been making waves in recent months, and are good candidates to potentially become the next billion dollar company.
The world probably doesn't need yet another dating app, but Tinder made headlines in recent weeks thanks to its popularity among the Olympic athletes in Sochi. Match.com already scooped up OKCupid in 2011; why not add Tinder to the mix? After Tinder clears up a certain little security problem, that is.
Mobile car service Uber has also had its share of bad press in recent months, thanks in large part to surging pricing and sketchy marketing tactics. But it's expanding rapidly and gets a lot of buzz from its promotional stunts (on-demand kittens and ice cream, helicopters to the Hamptons). How about using the Uber app to one day call for a Google self-driving car?
Music services are tricky, as they spend a lot of money to license your favourite tracks. But Spotify is a favourite among the tech-savvy and recently expanded free listening to mobile devices. What if Spotify was your music choice on iOS rather than iTunes Radio? Yes please…
Oculus VR was founded by self-described virtual reality enthusiast and hardware geek Palmer Luckey. However, it really took off thanks to a Kickstarter campaign for its Oculus Rift development kit. Virtual reality has had its ups and downs, but maybe Oculus could give Google Glass a boost?
Tesla made more headlines than usual this week amidst reports that the company had met with Apple. Elon Musk confirmed to Bloomberg TV that he had spoken with Apple, but said an acquisition was unlikely because it would probably detract from Tesla's core mission of creating the best electric car. Could anyone tempt the real-life Tony Stark? He already has a few billion in the bank, but can you really ever have enough?
It's very easy to waste the day away on Etsy, poring over handmade goods and random gizmos. While Etsy purists might not want the company to be gobbled up by the likes of Amazon, Prime shipping for all your hipster needs sounds enticing.
When Pinterest debuted, I didn't quite get it. Pages and pages of... pictures? That you look at and group together? Fast forward two years and Pinterest is another site that can suck you in as you hunt for recipes, ideas for redecorating your living room, bridesmaid dresses, or even the latest gadgets. Amazon and eBay have already copied Pinterest with their own "Collections"; couldn't the real thing do it better?
Oh, Snapchat. Are execs there face-palming today? The service reportedly turned down $3 billion (£1.8 billion) from Facebook a few months back, right before Snapchat started having a number of security issues. The company reportedly didn't want to sell to anyone, but the many billions WhatsApp has snaffled must surely sting. Time to put out the acquisition feelers?
The Pebble smartwatch is a Kickstarter success story, and has sold more than 300,000 units since it started shipping last year. Pebble recently took its design up a notch with the Steel version of its smartwatch, and launched an app store to make its gadgets even more worthwhile. Perhaps Samsung could take a few notes for its Galaxy Gear follow-up?
Two companies on this list got their big break on Kickstarter – Pebble and Oculus VR – but what about the platform itself? eBay is looking a little antiquated these days; why not add crowd-funding – and its celeb backers – to the mix?