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Data Sheet—Sunday, September 25, 2016

Will iMessage apps be the next startup gold rush?

Less than two weeks ago, Apple introduced the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 10, that came with a new addition to its now nearly five-year-old iMessage chat service: Apps created outside developers. Users can now play a game during their chats, reserve a restaurant table, or buy movie tickets. It’s all designed to make iMessage more useful—and thereby help Apple sell more iPhones and iPads.

Already, Apple’s App Store has about 400 apps available from third-party companies and another roughly 1,250 sticker packs (collections of images users can send in messages like emoji), according to mobile analytics company SensorTower. The apps’ makers range from large companies like OpenTable and ESPN, to popular privately-held businesses like Airbnb, to even smaller startups like Dubsmash, whose app lets users record short lip-syncing videos.

It’s still early to tell whether iMessage apps will turn into a big business for all the companies jumping aboard. Some of the companies may already have mobile apps and will simply build an iMessage version. Other may create apps specifically for iMessage, betting that the demand in this virgin ground will be strong enough to keep their companies afloat.

Platforms, as they are called by techies, are nothing new in Silicon Valley. For example, Slack, the popular workplace chat tool, last year opened its service to third-party chat bots, which are small programs that interact with users within a messaging-style app. Since then, companies have added a slew of these bots to Slack. It even helped set up a $80 million fund to invest in other startups building bots and other apps for its service.

Of course, Apple’s original App Store gave rise to an entire generation of startups focused on building iOS apps (or several).

Apple is now trying to set off another boom. But there’s also a potential downside for any company that takes the bait: Third party companies that create services on top of someone else’s platform are always at risk because platform owners sometimes change their minds.

Kia Kokalitcheva


This is the Startup Sunday edition of Data Sheet,Fortune’s daily tech newsletter, edited by reporter Kia Kokalitcheva. You may reach me via Twitter, email, or an entirely new platform that your startup developed. Feedback welcome.

Everyone’s Talking About

Snap, Inc. Snapchat revealed it’s changing its corporate name to Snap, Inc. as it now has a second product: Spectacles, a pair of sunglasses with a small camera that records 10-second clips for sharing on Snapchat. Most interesting will be to see if its sunglasses are better received than Google Glass, the search giant’s failed connected eyewear that often made people uncomfortable because it could record video. (Wall Street Journal) (Business Insider)

Unicorn Watch

Airbnb raises $555 million in new funding. The home-sharing company’s latest round, valuing it at $30 billion, could grow to $850 million. (Fortune)

Grab raises $750 million and teams up with a self-driving car startup. Uber’s biggest rival in Southeast Asia closed a new round that brings its valuation to reportedly more than $3 billion, and unveiled a partnership with nuTonomy. (Fortune) (Reuters)

Uber drivers will take selfies to verify their identity. The ride-hailing company is using Microsoft’s facial recognition software for this security feature it’s rolling out across the U.S. (Uber blog)

Airbnb’s plan to curb discrimination has critics. The company’s decision to continue displaying users’ profile photos is controversial. (Fortune)

The Week in Startups

Flywheel Gets the Green Light to Take on New York City’s Taximeter Incumbents (Fortune)

Meet This Year’s Top Ten Automotive Startups (Fortune)

Vroom Brings In $50 Million to Expand Its Online Used-Car Business (Fortune)

Beepi, an Online Used Car Marketplace, Is Adding An Auction Service (Fortune)

MealPass Rebrands to Work More Like ‘Tinder for Food’ (Fortune)

The Startup That Predicted Brexit Has Some Bad News for Hillary Clinton (Fortune)

Whole Foods Invests in Instacart at 2014 Valuation (Bloomberg)

How Hampton Creek Sold Silicon Valley on a Fake-Mayo Miracle (Bloomberg)

Facebook Just Bought a Small Hardware Startup Called Nascent Objects (Recode)

Apple Acquires Another Machine Learning Company: Tuplejump (TechCrunch)

Words of Wisdom

“If you’re choosing to play in the winner-takes-all, venture-backed startup business and you have seven different side gigs, you are going to get your f***ing face ripped off. You are stepping into a zero-sum game against the most ruthless, high-energy 20-somethings.”— author Tim Ferriss, on prioritizing projects. (Fortune)