Facebook, Google pick up talent from small startups

The Silicon Valley companies join the 'acqu-hiring' trend

Following a trend some have dubbed "acqu-hiring", both Facebook and Google said Friday they are taking over startups more for their talented staff than their products and services.

Acrylic Software, an app developer for iOS devices and the Mac, said that the staff of the company was moving from its studio in Vancouver, Canada, to San Francisco to join the Facebook design team there.

The company's products and services have not been acquired by Facebook, and while there are no plans for further development on them, its products will continue to remain available for download and purchase in their current form, founder Dustin MacDonald said in a blog post.

Simply put, there's an opportunity at Facebook to have a big impact in many people's lives, he added.

Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment on the deal.

In a related development, Google acquired Sparrow, the developer of iOS and Mac email clients, Sparrow said in a statement on its website on Friday. But new features will not be added to the product, as the staff will join Google's Gmail team. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Google could not be immediately reached for comment.

Sparrow CEO Dom Leca reassured users that the Sparrow service will continue to be offered to customers. "While we'll be working on new things at Google, we will continue to make Sparrow available and provide support for our users," he said.

On Apple's iTunes store, however, the description of the app has been changed to state that after the acquisition by Google, (as the team works on new projects, there will not be any new features released for the Sparrow apps, other than minor maintenance and bug fixes.

Internet companies including Salesforce.com and Facebook have made certain acquisitions recently that suggest that they are more interested in absorbing the talent offered by the startups, rather than their products and services which are either shut down or are not part of the deal.

Large companies sometimes acquire startups but may not use their products if these do not fit their roadmap, said Sanjay Anandaram, a venture capitalist based in Bangalore. "They need the people with expertise to work on new technologies like mobile which can give them a cutting edge," he added. The entrepreneurs at the acquired firm may at times be short of funds to build up their market, and prefer to merge with a larger company that can provide them a broader canvas to execute, according to Anandaram.

The staff at Spool, the startup developer of a mobile bookmarking application, for example joined Facebook earlier this month, after shutting down the service.

In similar deals, the staff at ChoicePass, a Web company that offers services for providing employees with perks and discounts at local businesses, said last month it was joining Salesforce.com. The team at Thinkfuse, a software-as-a-service provider focused on helping groups manage communications, also said last month it had joined Salesforce.com, and the startup would stop operations this month. The company did not comment on whether it would use the technology or services from these acquisitions.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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