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Investors are pouring big bucks into startups, and when it comes to their mobile investments, photos and videos are where it's at. And for an obvious reason: following Facebook's still-pending purchase of Instagram for $1bn, investors are hoping they can fund the next big acquisition target.

But predicting who will be acquired, and by whom, can be a tricky exercise. Case in point: today, Autodesk announced that it is acquiring mobile video startup Socialcam for $60m.

According to AllThingsDigital's Liz Gannes, the software company, which is best-known for its 3D and engineering software and not consumer internet plays, was apparently one of several companies interested in the startup, which launched a little over a year ago as a spin-off of live video upstart Justin.tv.

Today, Socialcam is the top application on Facebook, boasting some 3.7m active daily users and 56m monthly active users. Perhaps most incredibly, as Gannes points out, the company has built that user base with only four employees.

So what does Autodesk plan to do with Socialcam?

That isn't quite clear. As TechCrunch's Ryan Lawler explains, the Socialcam acquisition was executed by Autodesk's Consumer Products Group, which has made a number of "seemingly random purchases" in recent times, including that of a photo sharing service and an online do-it-yourself community. According to Lawler, "Autodesk...sees an opportunity to pitch the Socialcam application to some of its entertainment clients as a way to better engage with their viewers and customers." Autodesk's press release confirms: "Video is an ideal medium for professionals and consumers alike to communicate and share their design ideas."

That, frankly, seems like a fairly weak reason to spend $60m on a one-year old startup with four employees that is highly reliant on Facebook and has drawn criticism for its questionable use of YouTube content. And it's even harder to understand given the fact that Autodesk is a company that, as previously noted, generates more than $2bn a year in revenue primarily through the sale of software to businesses. If Autodesk wants to facilitate the sharing of design ideas, it certainly didn't need to spend $60m on a consumer internet play with negligible revenue.

For these reasons, Autodesk's acquisition of Socialcam may be one of the stronger signs of irrational exuberance yet in the current internet boom.

Patricio Robles

Published 17 July, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2419 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

This is pretty interesting stuff, not a bad return for a 1 year old startup. Are companies pushing for another dot com bubble burst?

Autodesk make great professional software, but I'm wondering why they have decided to buy into social media software. Socialcam is is really good, but I'm a Klip user personally.

A few of my thoughts on why they made the purchase:
- using the sharing technology to support their professional industry customers share files more easily
- further increase their mobile app offering (sketchbook pro and their others are great apps) and they have clearly made good profits from them
- or perhaps the only answer is that just want to get into social media! After all, that's where the money seems to be at the moment

Whatever their reasons, I can't wait to see what Autodesk will generate from it's random purchase.

over 4 years ago


Andrew Waber

Agree with the "huh" sentiment. Sure, they'll be able to parlay this into a video platform for people to share their CAD projects, but its perfectly reasonable to just build this platform themselves for say, $10 million, and without the pain of integrating this very different company into the fold, with dubious long-term benefits. Bubble indeed.

about 4 years ago

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