Dec 10, 2022 - Economy

Ripple effects of FTC vs. Meta: Build vs. buy

Illustration of a briefcase eating multiple denominations of bills.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Along with implications for startup M&A, the Within suit may affect how other tech companies develop their products and businesses.

The big picture: As companies grow and want to add new product capabilities and business offerings, they often grapple with whether to "build or buy" their way in.

  • Savvy companies have used acquisitions to obtain unique technologies and incorporate them into their own.
  • For example, Snapchat's widely popular animated filters originated from its purchase of startup Looksery.
  • Of course, Meta has used this strategy for years. It acquired FriendFeed in 2009 to bolster its real-time news feed capabilities and MSQRD in 2016 to compete with Snapchat's filters, just to name two.

To build or buy is exactly what Meta's VR team spent some time figuring out in the lead-up to its acquisition of Within — and now a point of contention in the court battle.

  • A significant portion of the injunction debate will focus on whether Meta had the capabilities to build its own dedicated VR fitness app, and whether it seriously planned to until its hand was forced by rumors that Apple was courting Within.

The bottom line: If these types of acquisitions became much harder to pass by regulators, it may have a chilling effect on how tech products are built.

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