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Google acquires Skybox Imaging for half a billion, looks to improve Project Loon


Companies are all about “acqui-hires” these days, with Apple buying 24 companies in the last 18 months, along with Apple’s latest Beats Music acquisition.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) has been busy in that time with a few company acquisitions of its own. After acquiring Titan Aerospace, Google’s now got its sights set on improving its Maps offering. The search engine giant announced yesterday that it would buy Maps company Skybox Imaging for $500 million. While Google says that Skybox will improve its maps, Google’s reason behind the acquisition has more to do with its Project Loon initiative than anything else: the company said in its announcement that it intends to use Skybox to “improve Internet access and disaster relief” – two areas Google has long been interested in.”

Google’s acquisition of Skybox is right in line with what the company plans to do around the world: reach billions of unreached people and people groups with Internet access via balloons. Of course, the more people that have Internet access, the more money companies can make from ads. Facebook, like Google, is also on the path to take Internet access around the world and add to its 1-billion Facebook user base.

Skybox Imaging was a company created in 2009 by four Stanford business school students with the goal of launching more affordable satellites into space and doing it cheaper than the space industry was at the time. The company received $91 million in overall funding, although few expected Skybox to make it. Skybox went on to launch its first high-resolution satellite imaging satellite (the first cheap satellite), and it’s likely the ingenuity of the company paired with its desire to provide worldwide Internet access cheaply that caught Google’s eye. If Google can launch Internet access with balloons and high-resolution satellites that save pennies, Google can earn billions and save millions in the long-term.

In Skybox Imaging’s acquisition statement, the satellite company wanted to detail the like-mindedness of both Skybox and Google: “Skybox and Google share more than just a zip code. We both believe in making information (especially accurate geospatial information) accessible and useful. And to do this, we’re both willing to tackle problems head on – whether it’s building cars that drive themselves or designing our own satellites from scratch.”

While Skybox and Google are joyful in the upcoming business marriage, the marriage hasn’t been announced just yet – so, in the meantime, “it will continue to be business as usual at Skybox,” the company said.

With the proposed Skybox business acquisition, Google’s still not done buying companies. The Mountain View, California, driverless car builders now have their sights set on acquiring Songza to provide an Internet radio service that’d compete with Apple’s iTunes Radio, Samsung’s Milk Music, as well as Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and other renown Internet radio stations.

Google’s stock is down $1.97 today to $558.58.

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