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Snapchat Has Bought a Drone Startup With Hollywood Connections

Variety logo Variety 5/26/2017 Janko Roettgers
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Snap, the company behind Snapchat, has acquired a small Venice, Calif.-based drone startup dubbed Ctrl Me, which counted some Hollywood studios among its clients. Buzzfeed first reported about the acquisition Friday afternoon, and Variety has since learned from a source familiar with the deal that it actually happened late last year.

Buzzfeed reported that the acquisition was a small-scale acquihire, with Snap spending $1 million or less to hire Ctrl Me’s founder Simon Nielsen. Snap declined to comment.

Ctrl Me wasn’t actually building its own drones, Variety learned from a source familiar with the company. Instead, the company acted more like a small, specialized retailer, reselling other company’s drones and custom-rigging them to carry heavy high-end cameras. Nielsen also described some of that work in a YouTube video posted back in 2014:

In that light, the acquisition may be more about adding expertise to the team than about acquiring any actual technology. Nielsen is known as a drone expert, and also knows the limitations of the technology, according to a source.

This isn’t the first time Snap has shown interest in drones. Last year, Business Insider reported that the company had been in talks with Berkeley-based drone startup Lily Robotics, but those talks didn’t result in an acquisition.

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