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Who Is Twitter CFO Anthony Noto Trying to Buy?

A DM fail reveals Twitter is on the prowl.


Twitter CFO Anthony Noto sent out a tweet Monday about a potential acquisition target in what appeared to be a Direct Message that was tweeted out accidentally. It was quickly deleted by Noto, but not before journalists captured a screen grab of the tweet.

The fact that Twitter is looking for an acquisition isn’t surprising — Re/code highlighted a number of possible purchase targets last month with the assumption that Twitter may open its wallet to address user growth issues. In light of Monday’s gaffe, we thought it was a good time to freshen up the list.

We removed a handful of companies, including some of the messaging services. We’ve been told Twitter is not looking to buy a standalone messenger. (Given Noto’s accidental tweet, they may want to reconsider.)

So who was Noto talking about on Monday and who are they meeting on December 15 or 16? From everything we’re hearing, it sounds as if Twitter is courting multiple companies. Here are a few possibilities.

  • Shots: Shots co-founders John and Sam Shahidi have had multiple meetings at Twitter headquarters over the past month, according to people familiar with the discussions. The selfie app has a highly engaged teenage audience, and both CEO John Shahidi and Shots investor Justin Bieber are big time Twitter users, and many of the most popular Vine users are also on the app. Twitter has also spent the past year improving the photo experience on the service, so a photo app may fit into the company’s overall product roadmap.
  • Mic News: Following Noto’s tweet, numerous journalists immediately pointed to this news site as the company in question — Noto recently followed four of their editors, including both co-founders. Now sources familiar with Twitter’s plans say that Mic News is indeed a company Twitter is looking at. Twitter has long been a place for users to share news, but acquiring an actual news platform and publisher would be an interesting spin.
  • Storehouse: This app allows users to turn the photos and videos on their smartphone into scrollable stories, complete with text. Imagine using both Vine and Instagram within the same app to share a “story” about your recent trip to the beach. Twitter has been vocal about bringing more multi-media to the service — CEO Dick Costolo said earlier this month that the company is building a new native video feature to debut in early 2015. Storehouse might give Twitter users a way to package all that visual content in a more appealing way. Update: When asked for comment, a Storehouse spokesperson sent Re/code the following statement: “We don’t comment on rumors. We are focused on building a great product and great community.”
  • Secret: The anonymous social app would be an intriguing addition to Twitter, but it’s unclear how much value it would add since Secret hasn’t revealed the size of its user base. Still, there’s no denying that people are fascinated with anonymous social networks, and the price tag would be well within Twitter’s reach given its $100 million valuation, according to a Wall Street Journal report from July. If not Secret, fellow anonymous social app Whisper also falls into Twitter’s price range — a round in March valued it at $200 million. Yik Yak, another anonymous app aimed at college students, raised $62 million earlier this week and could provide a valuable demographic to Twitter, but it has also had serious issues with cyberbullying. That may make it a turnoff for advertisers or provide liability issues that Twitter may want to avoid.
  • Prismatic: Twitter has started surfacing tweets that aren’t part of people’s regular streams as a way to increase interactions, and Prismatic could bolster that strategy. The startup works as a specialized news reader, recommending content people might miss, and if Prismatic’s algorithm works better, it could help Twitter drive user growth.
  • Drawbridge: This startup helps brands monitor consumers as they hop between devices, making it easier to retarget them with advertising. While it would basically be an extension to Twitter’s mobile ad network MoPub, it could still help Twitter’s commerce plans (it’s currently testing a buy button) by helping it drive sales within Twitter streams. The company says its software can hit up to 1 billion people, so that could come in handy.
  • Shopular: Based in Silicon Valley, Shopular uses geolocation to push relevant coupons and local deals to user smartphones as they walk around. Once again, given Twitter’s commerce ambitions, it’s possible to imagine these kinds of deals pushed to your Twitter stream someday. This is the type of technology Twitter may be able to build in-house, but with only $6.4 million raised to date, Shopular might be a cheap way to pick it up instead.

Update: Includes section on Mic News.

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