Note: This story has been updated following new elements brought by one of Teleport’s founders
Snapchat has hired some of the best developers of Teleport, a startup launched by tech entrepreneurs from Ukraine, Estonia and Russia. The US company is also said to have acquired the processing image technology developed by this company, which claims it is “the best in the world.”
Teleport made the news last year with its popular, AI-supported app that lets you change the color of your hair in selfies.
Discarding the term of “acquisition,” which was used by a range of Russian and Ukrainian media, the Snap Inc. press service wrote the following in an exchange with Ukraine Digital News: “We’re excited that a few engineers from Teleport will be joining Snap Inc.’s camera platform team. However, we did not acquire the company so rumours of a deal or acquisition are simply inaccurate.”
The result, however, might be the nearly same. According to a source close to the matter, the US company spent some $8 million to buy Teleport’s technology and team, virtually depriving the company of any substance.
In a conversation with Ukraine Digital News, Teleport co-founder Vladislav Uvarov confirmed that a part of the team has been hired by Snapchat and that Teleport’s technology is now in the hands of the US company.
As a result, Teleport as a company has no reason to continue its activity, he added.
A 20-year-old entrepreneur from Odessa, Ukraine, now living in Moscow, Uvarov told UADN about his intention to create a venture fund targeting AI startups.
Teleport’s case illustrates an undeniable trend: the startup ecosystems in the region, in spite of their impressive development over the past decade, are not strong enough to retain some of their best developers and entrepreneurs.
This situation translates into massive brain drain or startup migration to Silicon Valley, Western Europe or Asia. Company acquisitions by international players do happen, as exemplified by Ukrainian Looksery (purchased by Snapchat in 2015) or MSQRD (acquired by Facebook in 2016). In many of these cases, however, the startups had already established a foothold in California, or were simply launched from there by Eastern European tech immigrants.