Beeper Messaging App Is Acquired as a Bet on a Regulatory Shift

Beeper, the app that brought iPhone messaging features to Android smartphones, has been acquired by Automattic, the company behind, to support the development of a single service for sending and receiving chats from WhatsApp, Signal, LinkedIn and others.

The deal, which is valued at about $125 million, was announced on Tuesday. It comes as regulators in Europe and the United States pressure the biggest tech companies to open their messaging services to third parties. Regulators believe doing so will make it easier for people to communicate with friends and family and to switch messaging providers.

Automattic is betting that the changing regulatory environment will make people more interested in finding a unified messaging system like Beeper, said Toni Schneider, Automattic’s interim chief executive.

Beeper is Automattic’s second messaging service acquisition. Last year, it bought Texts, an iPhone app that brings together messages from Instagram, iMessage and others. Mr. Schneider said Beeper and Texts employees would combine their systems into a single app that worked on iPhones and Android smartphones as well as computers.

“Everyone has this problem where they say, ‘I know I had this conversation with this person, but I can’t remember where,’” Mr. Schneider said. “We think we can innovate a lot in this space.”

Eric Migicovsky, who co-founded Beeper in 2020, said Beeper and Texts would deliver their combined service this year. The teams that built those companies will meet in two weeks in Portugal to begin that process.

“The real thing we have been competing against was apathy about new experiences in chat,” Mr. Migicovsky said.

Last year, Beeper released an app that offered Android phone users the ability to send encrypted messages and high-resolution videos to iPhones. The app added more than 100,000 users in three days before Apple blocked it by changing its iMessage system.

Though a Justice Department lawsuit accusing Apple of maintaining an iPhone monopoly did not refer specifically to Beeper, the problems highlighted by Beeper’s conflict with Apple were mentioned in the complaint, which was filed in March. The department faulted Apple for making “iPhone users less secure than they would otherwise be” by “rejecting solutions” for smartphone messaging like those provided by Beeper.

Beeper will soon be open to anyone who wants to download it after a testing period that limited the app to about 100,000 users, Mr. Migicovsky said. The company had 466,000 people on a waiting list. About 60 percent of its users are on Android smartphones.

Automattic was an early investor in Beeper, which had raised $16 million from investors that included Y Combinator and Initialized Capital, Mr. Migicovsky said. Last week, Beeper’s 27 employees officially began work at their new company.

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