Did Apple buy Netflix? It did not.

What it did buy was the technology—and the talent—behind Hello Barbie.

From Axios Apple buys voice app startup Pullstring:

Pullstring was founded in 2011 by a group of former Pixar executives, and originally was used to power interactive voice apps for toys (including Hello Barbie in 2015). It later broadened its approach with the introduction of such IoT products as Amazon Echo and Google Assistant.

It raised around $44 million in venture capital, from firms like CRV, Greylock, True Ventures, Khosla Ventures and First Round Capital. According to PitchBook, its most recent post-money valuation was just north of $160 million.

The upfront deal value is said to be around $30 million, plus around $10 million in potential earn-outs for management. That would include CEO Oren Jacob, who once served as Pixar’s CTO.

Below: A two-minute Pullstring promotional video for delivering health care services via Alexa.

As MacDailyNews put it, so many synergies!

My take: Why oh why do the pundits keep talking about Apple buying Netflix (market cap $155 billion). Apple could change its stripes, but its MO is to buy small, strategically important companies for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. One time it spent $3 billion, and look how that turned out.


  1. Kirk Burgess said:

    Not that I disagree with the premise that Apple is best when buying smaller sub-Billion dollar. companies (PA Semi, primesense etc), but I’m intrigued that many think the $3 billion paid for Beats hasn’t turned out to be a great result.

    Putting aside the Beats headphone/speaker products (which are very high margin products selling in the $500 million-$1 Billion range annually), Beats Music (the people & the app) was the entire basis for Apple Music, which has grown into a 50 million+ user paid subscriber service generating roughly $6 Billion in revenue annually (and growing at a brisk pace). 100 million+ users / $10 Billion revenue is likely within reach in the forseeebale future, and in my mind makes the initial $3 Billion investment a bargain that paid off handsomely.

    February 16, 2019
    • Jonathan Mackenzie said:

      Absolutely. Tim Cook said at the time the deal would be accretive and I have always had faith he knew that the numbers made sense. In addition to the points made above, we have no idea what Beats people or tech might have been involved in the development of air pods.

      I liked the deal at the time and I still like it. I’d be excited to see Apple announce another multi billion dollar deal because I know if they’re paying that much, they have big plans. I’m sure not every acquisition delivers all that Apple hopes. Maybe they are disappointed in some aspects of the Beats deal, I don’t know. But I can’t see a reasonable case that they haven’t made any money on this deal.

      February 16, 2019
  2. John Konopka said:

    I’m skeptical that Apple could have bought Netflix some years ago and kept it growing. Nothing against Apple management, it would have taken a lot of time and risk taking to manage Netflix. Would as many content providers have cut deals knowing it was owned by Apple? I also wonder about the future of this business.

    February 16, 2019
  3. Dan Scropos said:

    Apple doesn’t buy companies. Never has. Apple buys the people within the company.

    February 16, 2019

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