Earlier this month, Facebook acquired WhoGlue, a startup that develops software for membership organizations. Incidentally, the Baltimore-based company sued Facebook for patent infringement two years ago. Financial details were not disclosed, but Facebook did say it plans to incorporate the firm's technology, which allows membership organizations to form private social networks.
"We can confirm that we acquired some technology developed by WhoGlue," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "The WhoGlue team isn't joining Facebook and instead will continue working on its own social networking software for organizations."
WhoGlue consists of just two full-time employees, WhoGlue founder Jason Hardebeck and a developer in Berlin. As part of the deal, Hardebeck has repurchased some of the company's assets, trademarks, and customer relationships from Facebook. He plans to relaunch the remnants of his company under the name WhoGlue LLC. His vision consists of a future where public social networks interact with private networks more seamlessly.
In September 2009, WhoGlue filed a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the social networking giant was violating its patent titled "Distributed personal relationship information management system and methods." The patent was filed in May 2002, two years before Facebook launched. The lawsuit ended in favor of WhoGlue in March 2010. Hardebeck says that the suit was settled in a "very positive" way – this apparently included Hardebeck managing to build a solid relationship with Facebook executives.
"It's not typically how you introduce yourself to someone, to serve them with papers," Hardebeck told The Baltimore Sun. "My experience with Facebook was very positive, very surprising, given its perception in the press and certainly from the movie [The Social Network]. It turns out that they are really good guys." He declined to comment on what exactly Facebook acquired from WhoGlue.
WhoGlue had about a dozen shareholders, including Siemens, which created the technology in the patent that WhoGlue held. Facebook had also bought the stake from WhoGlue shareholders, including Siemens.
This is an odd acquisition for Facebook because most of the companies it has bought in the past have been for the employees, not the technology. There are a few exceptions, such as Beluga, but the general trend is to gather new talent. Hardeback apparently is not interested in working for Palo Alto, but his work was attractive enough that Facebook still wanted to work out a deal.
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