GroupMe Founders: Business As Usual After Skype Acquisition, Just With Hella More Traffic

GroupMe co-founders Jared Hecht (left) and Steve Martocci (right), with GroupMe app model (and Mr. Hecht's fiance) Carrie Weprin.

“We feel fantastic! It’s great. We feel very good about it, it’s a really great thing for us,” GroupMe co-founder Jared Hecht told Betabeat when we reached him this afternoon. Mr. Hecht sounded as polished and level-headed as usual, if not terribly articulate while co-founder Steve Martocci claimed to be recovering from last night’s celebratory karaoke. The pair were in the backseat of a taxi on the way to film an interview about the 16-month old group messaging start-up’s recently many-million dollar acquisition by  Skype. “GroupMe and Skype as a whole is just a positive thing.”

When GroupMe first called Skype to explore potential partnerships a few months ago, Mr. Hecht had in mind something like adding a Skype-powered video chat feature to the GroupMe app. But as talks went on, the teams discovered they really liked each other! And, they started to realize, they had the same goals.

For Skype, on track to become a Microsoft property, Mr. Hecht said that vision is to become the “communication choice for a billion people across the globe,” with a focus on families and people with close connections. Whereas for GroupMe, it’s helping change the way people communicate with their “real-life network”–family and friends, real people in their lives.

It was a gradual decision to join Skype/Microsoft, Mr. Hecht said, but ultimately a “no brainer.” GroupMe and its 20 employees will remain in New York and operate as an independent start-up within Skype/Microsoft. Mr. Hecht declined to say who else had been in talks to buy GroupMe, but implied Skype wasn’t the only one interested. “We’ve always been exploring new opportunities,” he demurred when Betabeat asked who’s heart was broken when GroupMe chose Skype. “Interesting opportunities over there, other cool potential partnerships over there.”

The already-prolific GroupMe team can iterate much faster with access to Skype’s bazillion (north of 560 million registered users, about 175 million monthly users) and Microsoft’s roughly brazillion dollars. It’s a huge advantage over the other group texting applications, already far behind GroupMe in terms of branding and exposure–and, it’s not too much of a leap to guess, user adoption as well.

“The GroupMe team has created an incredibly sticky group messaging experience that works across mobile devices and platforms, making it a perfect addition to our voice, video and text products,” Skype CEO Tony Bates wrote on the company blog today. “We’re excited about introducing their disruptive product to our global user base.”

The co-founders will eventually become Microsoft employees, but they’re not sure what their titles will be yet. Likewise, they couldn’t say if or when GroupMe might be bundled into the Windows Phone 7 software. Integration will happen slowly over time as GroupMe continues to build out its product. Mr. Hecht mentioned casually that GroupMe and Skype see eye-to-eye on where “social” trends will be in five years. “They do not want to slow us down,” Mr. Martocci said. “They don’t want any kind of Microsoft integration to slow us down … GroupMe is GroupMe, just business as usual just with a whole lot more traffic on the web.”

Was Mr. Bates a GroupMe user, we were curious to know? “I think he was a GroupMe user when we met him,” one of the co-founders answered. “We’re in a group with him right now.”

What’s the group called? we asked.


GroupMe Founders: Business As Usual After Skype Acquisition, Just With Hella More Traffic