After being acquired by Facebook, the mobile back-end service Parse has been busy integrating itself into the company, as well as launching new services like web hosting for developers.
The service has built tools to help developers focus on the front-end of their product, while handling all of the messy back-end things like cross-platform compatibility and testing. Naturally, Facebook integration is easier than ever for mobile developers thanks to the acquisition. Its been six years since Facebook’s Platform launched, and during a whiteboard session at its Menlo Park headquarters, the company discussed just how far its come.
Doug Purdy, Director of Product Management, and Mike Vernal of Facebook Platform led the discussion. Ilya Sukhar, who recently joined Facebook with Parse, sat in on the discussion as well.
Purdy set up the conversation about next steps by saying: “We’ve been thinking about how we can provide tools to developers to enable a more cross-platform world. We’re trying to create a platform that developers can build something that spans over devices and makes people the center. Regardless of the device that you or your friends are on, everyone can have a rich experience.”
Sukhar, co-founder of Parse, talked a bit about Parse’s beginnings and day four at Facebook:
If you think about applications broadly, there’s the front-end, and below the hood there’s a lot. The data side, how you sync it back to the server, the databases. None of these things bring value to the users or differentiate apps. Our SDKs make this dramatically easier for everyone.
I was originally building mobile apps myself. I was spending a lot of time building things over and over again, things that were quite hard and painful. It’s time that I could have spent on the actual user experience or the utility of my app. So I decided to build Parse. We’ve grown from one person to 24. Since day one, we’ve had 80K apps, 200M installed apps.
Generally, the community is very excited. All of our metrics are up and it’s been a really fun time.
It’s good news that things are going smoothly, and it’s clear that Facebook sees Parse as a huge part of its developer ecosystem push for the future. As far as new services, Sukhar says the team, which is still operating independently, speaks to developers about what should come next. One of the top features that gets requested is functionality around push notifications and offline mode.
The clear value for Facebook is that Parse’s platform could be the easiest way to urge developers to use Facebook ads. Once you get rid of the complexity of building out a backend for an app, you can pay attention to promoting your app more. Hopefully that promotion will come via Facebook, as Purdy mentioned comScore’s findings that the site is the top way to discover new apps.
On whether less backend worries will lead to more promotion, Sukhar said: “This is something we’ve heard: ‘Parse has done well for me to get things out to market, but now I need users.’ We don’t have anything specific to announce today, but it’s clear that Facebook has the solution.”
JustFab, the subscription-based fashion commerce site, is putting the $109 million that it has raised so far to use: today it is announcing the acquisition of The Fab Shoes, a European e-commerce shoe club in France and Spain, to build out its global operations. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The deal will give JustFab a stronger foothold in the European market: it already has operations in Germany, where it has a European HQ in Berlin, as well as in the UK; now it will be adding France and Spain, with the integrated site coming in July 2013. Growth in Europe has been coming at a fast pace for the company so far. In 2012, JustFab did $2 million in sales, co-founder and co-CEO Adam Goldenberg tells TechCrunch (he shares the CEO role with co-founder Don Resller). ”This year we are on track to exceed $30 million.” The Fab Shoes has slightly more than 500,000 users; combining that with the 1.5 million across Germany and the UK, JustFab will now have over 2 million members, with 15 million worldwide, and is on track to do $250 million in revenue globally ($215 million in the U.S.).
Call it a funny coincidence, but this isn’t the first acquisition JustFab has made of a would-be competitor with the word “Fab” in its name. Earlier this year, the company acquired FabKids to spearhead a move into children’s fashion. “We have a running joke that whoever is called ‘Fab’, we’ll buy them,” says CEO Adam Goldenberg. (And indeed that may not extend to the biggest Fab of all, Fab.com, which apparently is now raising a $250 million round at a $1 billion valuation.)
More seriously, Goldenberg says that his company is not singularly focused on buying up so-called “clones” of its own service. Taking a lesson from some of the challenges companies like Groupon have had digesting large, inorganic acquisitions to scale up their services — from what we understand Groupon has yet to migrate many of its extensive global assets on to a single common platform with the U.S. operation — JustFab has a different approach.
As Goldenberg describes it, the company’s M&A policy is based on acquiring smaller businesses that complement JustFab’s and are also built on the same subscription model. This means that they can be easily integrated into the bigger company’s infrastructure.
There is another reason for this: it’s increasingly a challenge for e-commerce fashion companies these days to raise money, with much of it going instead to those that have proven to have the most scale. “This is part of the reason why we raised such a big round last year,” Goldenberg noted. The Fab Shoes, founded in early 2012, was raising financing — or trying to — when JustFab came knocking.
“Scale and infrastructure are key if you want to grow quickly in the fashion business,” said Pablo Szefner, CEO of The Fab Shoes, in a statement. “While The Fab Shoes has had a lot of early success, we are thrilled to take our core business to the next level. With JustFab, we can provide our existing members and potential new customers with excellent styles, quality and service for an outstanding shopping experience.”
“We met Pablo and Xisco” — Pablo Szefner, CEO of The Fab Shoes and Xisco de la Calle, its COO — “and we decided this would be a great talent acquisition as well.” De la Calle will become the VP of operations for JustFab Europe, while Pablo becomes General Manager for France and Spain, overseeing 12 employees in Barcelona and Paris.
While some have waved a red flag over subscription-commerce sites — the implication being that they are not transparent enough about how they charge users on a regular basis — Goldenberg is insistent that this is a model that works well and is a hit with its customers, and investors. “There is a subscription commerce funding craze right now,” he says. “But because it is so low-cost you have to have the scale to make the economics of it work. We have millions of satisfied customers.”
Looking ahead, he says the company is planning to launch more products beyond the shoes that are the basis of the company’s model. In addition to childrens’ clothes that will go online in June, there is already denim and handbags that altogether make up about 30% of the company’s sales. And he hints that there will be another fashion category being launched later this year. “We’re building the next generation of H&M and Zara,” he says. Through all of that, “we’re staying entirely focused on subscription-based commerce.”
Another day, another acquisition by Yahoo.
Yahoo said this morning it’s acquired PlayerScale, a California-based startup that makes software infrastructure for cross-platform gaming. Financial details haven’t been disclosed.
PlayerScale, which was self-funded and cash-flow positive as of this past January, was founded in 2009. According to a VentureBeat article also from January, the company had a staff of 14.
It’s not clear yet how many staff are involved and will be joining Yahoo — we’ve reached out for details and will update this with any information we receive. Update: Yahoo tells us that 7 people from PlayerScale are joining Yahoo as part of the transaction.
The four-year-old PlayerScale says its platform now has more than 150 million players, which marks significant growth from just this past January when our own Anthony Ha reported the platform had crossed the 100 million user line. For now this does not look like a straight acqui-hire situation, as both Yahoo and PlayerScale say the gaming platform will remain active post-acquisition and continue to be developed.
Here is a statement provided by Yahoo PR:
“The team has built an incredible gaming platform that is used by over 150 million players worldwide. We intend to continue to support and grow PlayerScale’s technology, and we look forward to building great new experiences on Yahoo! using the PlayerScale platform.”
And here is PlayerScale CEO Jesper Jensen‘s blog post on the deal:
“Today is a great day — both in our journey with PlayerScale and for users of our Player.IO product. We are happy to announce the next big step toward our goal of building the best possible gaming infrastructure platform: we have been acquired by Yahoo!. And don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere. Our platform will continue to support the same great games that you love playing today … and in fact, it will only get better from here!
Our goal has always been to help developers build the best possible games, without having to worry about building and scaling the infrastructure required to operate today’s biggest successes. In working with the folks at Yahoo!, it has become clear that we share this passion.
We have spent the past four years growing a three-person startup into a product that powers games played by over 150 million people worldwide and we are adding over 400,000 new users every day. In the last four months alone, we have increased our daily user growth rate by almost sixty percent. With Yahoo!’s backing, we can crank out awesome products and improvements to our platform faster than ever before. We will continue to support our existing product and deliver new services to help you grow and manage your success in cross-platform gaming — whether it’s casual, social or mobile.
Today marks a milestone for PlayerScale and I want to sincerely thank the team, our developers and millions of users for the adventure so far and can promise there will be more to come.
- Jesper Jensen”
Fresh from closing its purchase of newsreading app Pulse, LinkedIn has made another acquisition to dive deeper into the mobile space. TechCrunch has found out, and confirmed, that the social network has aqui-hired Maybe, the social polling startup founded by Omar Hamoui — the man who set up, ran and then sold mobile ad company AdMob to Google for $750 million.
All staff from Maybe, except for Hamoui himself, are now at LinkedIn and working in its mobile division. That includes four engineers and one designer, LinkedIn has told us. Meanwhile, Maybe itself has now shut down. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.
Maybe first emerged in June of last year, a startup that was incubated and spun out of Hamoui’s now-defunct startup generator Churn Labs.
Maybe was one of the contenders in the area of polling startups — an area that has seen some other M&A activity, specifically with the acquisition of GoPollGo by Yahoo. Others include Seesaw, Fashism and Thumb.
It’s not clear why Maybe closed up shop so fast. Maybe because the polling space is so crowded? Maybe because Hamoui is working on something else? Maybe because LinkedIn made Maybe an offer it couldn’t refuse? LinkedIn is not commenting further, and we have not yet heard back from Hamoui himself. Maybe we will update when we do.
Update: Hamoui has now responded to confirm the acqui-hire as well, and explain a little more of what went on:
“After a number of different product directions we didn’t feel that what we were building was having the impact we wanted,” he says.
Putting aside competitive pressures in the polling space and startups in general looking for just the right product for the market, there is a connection between LinkedIn and Admob: Kevin Scott, SVP of Engineering at the social network, was previously VP of Engineering at AdMob. TechCrunch understands that after Hamoui and his two co-founders, Haider Sabri and Wayne Pan, met with him, they all decided it would be a natural next step for the mobile-focused team that they had built up.
“Although we had plenty of cash of in the bank, we were really impressed with the team and vision at LinkedIn,” says Hamoui. “Having the excellent mobile focused team we had built join them was clearly a way to have the kind of impact we were hoping for.”
Hamoui says the his own next steps “aren’t locked down yet.” We’ll definitely keep you posted with what we find out.
GiftCards.com, a Pittsburgh-based company that has been around for more than a decade and has sold 5 million gift cards, agreed to buy San Francisco startup Giftly to grow out a mobile platform.
The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Giftly had raised about $2.8 million from investors including Baseline Ventures, SoftTech VC, Floodgate, Thrive Capital, and Techstars’ David Tisch.
Giftly’s acquisition follows a number of other ones. Karma was picked up very early by Facebook although it may not produce meaningful revenue for some time for the social network, according to its earnings results earlier this year. Another gifting startup, Giftiki, which pooled together people’s money to get gifts, was acquired by Launchrock.
Giftly built a platform that avoided the hassle of individually dealing with merchants and point-of-sale systems. They came out with a native mobile app last fall that made it easier to send presents to friends and family.
The company’s platform didn’t put any limitations on what kinds of presents you could send because the company had a web of relationships with banks and credit card processors. When a recipient would go to redeem their gift, they would pay out of their own pocket, but Giftly would reimburse them that amount through their credit card.
GiftCards.com said Giftly will be rolled into their operations, but will maintain offices in San Francisco.
“We will continue to build out Giftly,” said Giftly’s CEO Timothy Bentley. “Our backend infrastructure will be used for their next generation products. We’ll continue to expand
the ways our technology and services are available to developers, through our API, and merchants, through our merchant services.”
The company is also looking to raise a first venture round, even though it’s been around for more than 10 years. That round will go toward completing the acquisition of Giftly. GiftCards.com has been around since 1999; they sell personalized, pre-designed and discount gift cards.