Facebook to acquire twice as many startups in 2011

Ronny Kerr · August 23, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/1e2e

With a heavy focus on design, the social network wants to stave off Google+ and other rivals

Startups: if you want to be bought by Facebook, now’s the time. But you better focus on design.

Feeling the heat from rival social network Google+ and eager to maintain its 750 million member dominance, Facebook is planning to ramp up its acquisition strategy, according to an interview with Vaughan Smith, director of corporate development at the company.

Facebook has made 13 acquisitions in total, says Bloomberg, but 10 of those were from last year alone. This year, the goal is 20 acquisitions. Now that the company has serious funds in the bank (via Goldman Sachs and DST), money shouldn’t really be an issue.

The real issue, however, will be finding the right companies. Facebook’s history of acquisitions betrays an obsession with strong design teams, meaning the social network must be depending on the look and feel of its site to keep users coming back. To supplement design, of course, Facebook will also want to acquire companies that can bolster its service’s reliability and mobile features.

“Two years ago we didn’t have a track record in acquisitions,” Smith said. “While we expected them to work well, it was still a crapshoot how they’d turn out. We’ve built a culture that supports entrepreneurs, and it’s working incredibly well.”

It shouldn’t surprise anybody that Facebook’s acquisitions will place a heavy emphasis on design, since many of its past purchases point to this tendency already:

Divvyshot (acquired April 2010) was a photo service that enabled users to collaborate with others in grouping together their images into collections called “events.” More than anything, however, Divvyshot was simply stunning, and we can safely bet that the former team helped develop the new photo viewer on Facebook.

Hot Potato (acquired August 2010) was a social media sign-in service, letting users broadcast what they’re doing at that moment (like what they’re watching on TV or what location they’re at).

Beluga (acquired March 2011) was a free and private group mobile messaging service that has since been translated into Facebook’s second official mobile app, Facebook Messenger.

Sofa (acquired June 2011) was an Amsterdam-based software and design team whose very product pages seemed to be promoting eye candy than actual software. For an example of this, take a look at Kaleidoscope and Versions.

Push Pop Press (acquired August 2011) was a digital book creator whose sole product transformed Al Gore’s 2009 novel “Our Choice” into a stunning e-book on the iPad, complete with rich media like photos, videos, interactive maps, infographics and more.

There’s certainly a philosophical chain running through these startups, making me think it wouldn’t be too hard to pick out startups that Facebook would like to acquire in the future.

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