Why Google or Facebook buying your favorite startup means it’s probably toast

“When I learned this morning, via Twitter, that the small company behind Mac/iOS e-mail app Sparrow was being bought by Google, I almost didn’t need to read the startup’s announcement to know the upshot,” Harry McCracken writes for TIME Magazine. “Its five-person team will be working on Gmail henceforth; the existing Sparrow apps aren’t being discontinued, but they apparently won’t get any updates, either.”

McCracken writes, “Shall we review other examples of these announcements—some terse, some more chatty–from the past few years?”

• Google buys Gabor Cselle’s iPhone email app reMail, February 2010
• Google buys 3D interface company BumpTop, April 2010
• Google buys SageTV, June 2011
• Google buys interactive web-content company Apture, September 2011
• Google buys friend-sorting app company Katango, November 2011
• Facebook buys Foursquare-like social network Gowalla, December 2011
• Facebook buys social discovery app company Glancee, May 2012

McCracken writes, “I could go on–and on and on. But you get the idea… If the inventors of something you love tell you that they’re thrilled to announce they’ve sold themselves to Google and Facebook, remember this: They have reason to be thrilled. So does the company doing the buying. It might even be a happy development for users of the Google or Facebook services that the acquisition is intended to bolster. But it doesn’t really matter how celebratory, thankful and ambitious the announcement sounds–it’s probably bad news for you.”

Much more in the full article, which also discusses YouTube and Instagram as exceptions, here.http://techland.time.com/2012/07/20/why-google-or-facebook-buying-your-favorite-startup-means-its-probably-toast/


  1. To be fair, it is common practice for the most of purchases of small companies by big ones. And it is not even limited to IT industry. And Apple does the same thing.

    1. Apple does do the same thing but in most cases it seems Apple does it to further incorporate the tech they bought, not just to redirect the employees to work on other Apple stuff.

        1. In December 2009, Lala made the decision to close their trading service.[10]
          Lala.com was purchased by Apple, Inc. on December 5, 2009 for more than $80M.[11]
          On April 30, 2010, Apple announced that it would be shutting down lala.com entirely on May 31, 2010.[3]

      1. Are you Siri-ous? Would Apple really do that? LOL, of course they would but at least in the end it benefits millions if not billions. The problem with these others is, they seem to buy their competition just to get rid of them. There is a world of difference between payoffs to reduce competition and buyouts to promote innovation.

  2. I read a comment on another site that equated developers like the Sparrow team to whores because they were in negotiations with Google for some time yet they kept selling a product that they knew would be killed. They continued to pull in sucker buyers while they were getting ready to announce their sale to Google. And even now, Sparrow is dead except for the occasional bug fix, and yet it’s still for sale on the App Store as well as on their own site.

    Once commenter even suggested that the Sparrow team refund money to those who bought the product in good faith.

    It’s not Google’s fault, it’s the fault of the Sparrow people for being disingenuous and trying to make a few hundred extra bucks at the end while lining their pockets with Google’s cash.

    Fraudulent criminals.

    1. Would you shut down your business while you negotiated a deal? What if the negotiations broke down? Would you then have another grand opening?

      Some people seem to have no concept as to how business works.

  3. Like everyone, very sad and disappointed by all this.

    Sigh. Onwards and upwards. Been using Sparrow since it came out and It’s such a long time since I used Mail.app that I feel like I need some help. Can anyone recommend a good simple online guide to getting my GMail working within Apple Mail? Many thanks in advance.

    1. Apple mail will configure itself after you enter your gmail address. Nothing to configure that I remember.

      another great email app that supports gmail is Postbox.

      1. Another vote for Postbox. Apple’s native Mail app generally works pretty well but I’ve had a couple of problems with it which caused me to look elsewhere. I never used Sparrow but I found Postbox is nearly bulletproof. It works every time and some great features.

  4. I purchased Sparrow for the Mac when I was running Snow Leopard and it seemed to make sense then as the mail app in Snow Leopard wasn’t up to snuff, I felt.

    Since Apple revamped the mail app for Lion, I have very rarely used Sparrow and have relegated it as an email client for junk mail where less relevant mail to my other mail domains are sent. The Lion mail app outstrips the capability of Sparrow in many ways. Sparrow, whilst good, is too simplistic for my needs.

    I prefer Apple’s mail app for OS X and iOS as it enables me to sync my iCloud mail domain seamless between all of my devices. So the mail app gets my nod every time. I have no problems with it other than the formatting markups don’t seem to work in iOS mail, as in if you put an underline in the text it won’t stick when mail is sent.

    I’ve used Sparrow on and off now for almost a year and a half and find its clean interface refreshing as a mail client. Other than that the OS X mail app is my preferred choice.

    1. But iOS Mail app still can’t access contact groups!
      And Contacts still can’t create, edit nor otherwise manage group lists…
      Isn’t it about time?

      1. I agree that the iOS mail app has deficiencies with regard to managing group sends in that it’s non-existent. However, there are several apps available in the app store that provide workarounds. Not perfect, but usable at a pinch. I don’t use them myself because they add another layer which makes managing mail harder than it should be. Many work related functions in mail have been addressed with the exception of group send. Mail formatting another that needs attention as it doesn’t stick when sending mail.

        Again, in contacts, if you so wish there are third party apps that help you manage groups but I don’t use them as they add another layer of complexity that is not needed. As you can sync contacts wirelessly through iCloud over the Internet, one workaround is to arrange contacts into groups in the contacts (address book) app in Mac OS X and then sync that across to your iPhone and iPad. I find that works best for me, albeit in a slightly clumsy manner.

  5. In my experience when a big company buys a startup they absorb the company because they bought it for the technology, or they take it in a direction that sucks.

    I know there are a few standout ‘mergers’ that went well but I generally consider it to be the end when I see an announcement that says “we’ve been bought! We are so excited!”

  6. what does Goo/FB etc say about our humanity:
    1. we’re lazy fucks
    2. we pride ourselves in copying perfectly vs innovating creatively
    3. we do not learn from history which exists to teach us lessons of avoidance of past mistakes. Google lost its mojo since day 1, 1998 Ssep 4 and since only rehashed all of Microsoft’s erroneous ways. Hence, with all their 1000s of lab projects, still only 1 works or is profitable after 12 years! (that of search).

    pathetic humanity. especially considering the only real competitor to Apple is FB and all they invented is a digital version of what humans always did: chat socially. duh.

    that’s all humans are capable of coming up with?! its no wonder ET never returned. it’s not worth it for the Ancient Aliens to learn nothing from us.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.