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Snap Hires Swiss Team Behind Software Protection Startup

Published on .

An employee wears Snapchat Spectacles by Snap Inc. outside a vending machine pop-up store in Los Angeles last March.
An employee wears Snapchat Spectacles by Snap Inc. outside a vending machine pop-up store in Los Angeles last March. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Snap Inc. has quietly acquired the team behind Swiss startup Strong.Codes, a maker of tools that obscures software code and makes it harder for competitors to copy.

In early 2017 Snap hired Laurent Balmelli, an engineer who co-founded Strong.Codes. The rest of the four-strong team has since joined Balmelli, according to a person familiar with the move and information on their LinkedIn profile pages. The new hires will remain working in Switzerland. Strong.Codes has since closed.

Snap has also placed advertisements seeking to hire information security experts and cryptographers in Switzerland, and has been slowly increasing its European presence. It's one of the lead sponsors at Black Alps 17, a cybersecurity conference at Yverdon-les-Bains, northeast of Geneva, and in May hired Facebook Inc.'s Marianne Bullwinkel as country manager for Germany, Austria, Switzerland.

The Venice, California-based company, has said a risk for its Snapchat social media app is Facebook's Instagram and its mimicking of Snapchat features. Strong.Codes specialized in protection against reverse engineering -- a term used to describe taking apart a product to learn how to rebuild it, or copy it.

A spokesman from Snap declined to comment.

Facebook has been copying some of Snapchat's most popular features, including its "stories" tool, which lets people post short videos about what's happening in their day.

"If you want to be a creative company, you have got to be comfortable with and enjoy the fact that people copy your products if you make great stuff," said Snap co-founder Evan Spiegel during his first earnings conference call in May. "Just because Yahoo! has a search box doesn't mean they're Google."

Snap's shares dropped to an all-time low on Tuesday of $14.65 after a clutch of negative projections from analysts. The falling stock has wiped out $4.3 billion from the combined net worth of co-founders Spiegel and Bobby Murphy since the company's initial offering in early March.

-- Bloomberg News

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