September 16, 2013
From The New York Times, The Business of Technology
By Claire Caine Miller
Remember 2008, when people at conferences and cocktail parties would bump their phones together to exchange digital business cards? Ever wondered what happened to that app, called Bump?
On Monday, Bump announced that it was acquired by Google.
Bump, despite raising $20 million from high-profile venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, struggled to find its footing. Google paid about $40 million for it, two people who had been briefed on the sale said. The companies did not disclose the price.
It reinvented itself several times, as a tool for exchanging business cards, then a social network, then a file-sharing service. Recently, it added a photo-sharing app called Flock. It also licensed its technology to other developers, who used it for things like exchanging money or sexual compatibility information by bumping phones.
Bump’s latest versions had a characteristic Google has been chasing: simplicity of design and function, despite complex algorithms.
Bump’s app for exchanging information gathered signals from phones and sent them to its servers, where it matched them with other phones sending similar signals. Flock uses location technology and algorithms to determine that a group of friends is taking photographs at the same place and invite each friend to contribute photos to a joint album.
The acquisition occurred just after Apple announced a wireless file-sharing tool, AirDrop, as part of the new iPhone software, and Bump’s technology could interest the Android team. Its Flock photo app seems like a natural fit with Google Plus, which has been trying to distinguish itself as a more advanced photo-sharing service.
Google declined to say what it planned to do with Bump, issuing only this statement: “The Bump team has demonstrated a strong ability to quickly build and develop products that users love, and we think they’ll be a great fit at Google.”
In a blog post, David Lieb, Bump’s co-founder and chief executive, hinted that its apps might not continue to exist in their current form at Google. “Bump and Flock will continue to work as they always have for now; stay tuned for future updates,” he wrote.
The sale could have been a way for Google to buy some experienced engineers and for Bump to figure out a future for itself.
“We strive to create experiences that feel like magic, enabled behind the scene with innovations in math, data processing, and algorithms,” Mr. Lieb wrote. “So we couldn’t be more thrilled to join Google, a company that shares our belief.”