Gowalla’s Co-founder Josh Williams confirmed that Gowalla sold itself to Facebook today — the latest “hacquisition.”

“Hacquisition,” if you haven’t already figured it out, combines the words “hacker” with “acquisition” to create a phrase that describes what you call a company that is acquired mostly for its hacker talent.

Some also call it getting “acqhired.”

Leaving 4 Years Of Development Behind

Gowalla is a good example of hacquisition:

Its founders Wiliams and co- Scott Raymond and their team of Ruby/Rails developers will be dropping Gowalla development and moving to Facebook’s Palo Alto offices in January to join the Facebook design and engineering team to work on its Timeline product.

They will leave Gowalla’s 4 years of product development behind.

Hacquisition is a huge trend that began with Google in 2001 and has really ramped up in 2011 with Facebook (and Zynga) as the new popular acquirers.

This is a very Internet-type-of thing — most normal businesses acquire companies for their intellectual property (e.g. technology) and customers (in addition to their great people).

But Internet companies, especially young ones, often have loads of capital and coding that needs to scale…they plain out just need more people..usually hackers and designers.

Facebook VP:  “Engineers are worth $500K to $1 Million” 

Facebook’s key acquisition specialist Vaughan Smith told the NY Times earlier this year that “engineers are worth half a million to one million.”

That’s in the ballpark of Ongig’s own numbers when we said a hire is a $1 million transaction in The Top 7 Reasons Hiring Is Being Reinvented…Right Now.

Other recent hacquisition examples include:

Facebook bought Strobe, maker of platform that helps developers build and manage HTML5 applications.

Key to that acquisition was CEO Charles Jolley (he had previously built the JavaScript open-source framework SproutCore while at Apple) and is considered by some to be an HTML5 visionary.

Facebook bought MailRank and its two veterans Bethanye McKinney Blount and Bryan O’Sullivan (both formerly directors of engineering at Linden Lab).

You may recall that Facebook previously (November of 2010) bought Walletin and hired its founders Bruce Rogers and Cory Ondrejka (formerly the CTO of Linden Lab).

Early Stage Startups Are Acquired For $8.5 Million Plus $500,000 Per Employee

There’s a cool analysis of 71 early stage acquisitions and 84 late-stage acquisitions over at TechCrunch.

It shows data suggesting that early stage startups (<50 employees) are acquired for $8.5 million plus $500,000 per employee; while late-stage startups (50 to 500 employees) go for $135 million plus $500,000 per employee.

And Wikipedia does a good job with their List of Facebook Acquisitions (22 so far!) that includes the talent they received with the acquisition.

We expect these hacquisitions and other shake-outs (including layoffs) to continue, especailly in the social media, mobile and gaming space (including here in San Francisco).

Rob Kelly

Co-Founder and CEO at Ongig
Ongig is the video job description platform that helps you attract the best talent faster. Ongig supercharges your job descriptions through video, images, and other media along with live chat, social sharing, and careers microsite creation. Early clients of Ongig include Yelp, GoDaddy, Verizon Digital and Autodesk.

by in hiring

  • Ddostal

    Interesting article Rob. In the case of Gowalla, and I may have misunderstood, is the platform being dropped and not pursued while the talent is integrated into Facebook? It is a strange swallowing effect with companies. It sounds like the team will be kept together along with the culture they have built and come onboard until your usefulness has expired.

    • Thanks, Ddostal.

      Gowalla founder Josh Williams says: “Gowalla, as a service, will be winding down at the end of January. We plan to provide an easy way to export your Passport data, your Stamp and Pin data (along with your legacy Item data), and your photos as well.”