Google buys work chat app Pie, looking to gain foothold in Singapore

Google is looking to recruit Silicon Valley-based Singaporeans back home.

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Google has acquired messaging start-up Pie to boost its engineering team in Singapore, Google's vice-president Caesar Sengupta told The Straits Times on Thursday.

Pie confirmed its engineers will start work in Google's office in Shenton Way in what sounds like an "acquihire" deal -- a buyout more centered around the employees, rather than the product.

Prompting the deal, Sengupta said his goal is to attract Singapore engineers who are working overseas, "especially" in the US, to join the engineering team in Singapore.

A simplified version of the popular chat app Slack, Pie is a messaging service for teams with apps on iOS, Android, Mac and the web. The company raised a $1.2 million Series A round in June 2015.

Sengupta wrote on the Google Asia Pacific Blog:

The computing experience for most of these first-timers, coming online in places like India, Indonesia and the Philippines, is very different from the one many of us grew up with -- and not the one that most of Google's services were originally designed for. Their main (and in most cases, only) "computer" is a low-cost smartphone. Connectivity is expensive in relation to incomes, and frequently patchy - websites, maps and especially videos can take minutes to load and often time out. And for many, there is just not enough relevant content available in their language.

These aren't easy problems to fix, but we'd like to do a better job of addressing them. That's why we're building a new engineering team in Singapore - to get closer to the next billion users coming online and to develop products that will work for them.

It's not clear if Google will shutter the app.

We've reached out to both companies for more information on the deal.

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