Yahoo is in talks to invest in disappearing messaging app Snapchat at around a $10 billion valuation, according to The Wall Street Journal. If true, then it means that Yahoo is in the midst of a major strategic shift.
During our Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in July, I asked Yahoo (YHOO) chief development officer Jackie Reses why her company didn’t have an in-house venture capital unit. Her reply was as follows:
Well, I’m pretty sure that investing in Snapchat right now would be a venture capital deal — even if it costs Yahoo more than the $1.1 billion it paid to acquire Tumblr. There’s no way that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel would be giving up majority control, nor would he include an acquisition option that gives Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer the exercise trigger.
This isn’t to say that Yahoo wouldn’t be making a smart investment decision. After all, the only reason it can even consider this deal is because it has billions of dollars in spare cash that it just received from the IPO of Alibaba Group (BABA) , which itself was a large strategic investment in 2007. But that was a different leadership group from the one that claims to consider venture investing to be a distraction.
Or maybe this is all just a deliberate leak to ruin the weekend of activist investor Starboard Value, which has built up a position in Yahoo and suggested that it pursue a reverse merger of sorts with AOL (AOL). One also has to wonder what Yahoo’s new acquisition of MessageMe means for the Snapchat conversations.
Snapchat is no stranger to corporate interest. Last fall it turned down a rumored $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook (FB), and there has been consistent rumblings that Google (GOOG) has expressed some interest. Snapchat most recently raised VC funding in December 2013 in a $50 million round from Coatue Management. Before that, it raised over $90 million from firms like Benchmark, General Catalyst Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, SV Angel and Tencent.
Sign up for Dan’s daily newsletter on deals & deal-makers: GetTermSheet.com