Gowalla founders, staff to join Facebook

Facebook hires Gowalla's manpower including co-founders, but won't acquire company's location-based technology which service will cease by January next year.

Facebook has recruited the two co-founders and other staff members of location-based services (LBS) company, Gowalla, in its latest "acqui-hire" efforts. The social media juggernaut says while it has hired Gowalla's talent, it will not acquire the company's location-based technology.

Gowalla, as a service, will also be shut down by end-January 2012, according to co-founder Josh Williams in a blog post Monday. Williams, along with Scott Raymond, founded Gowalla three years ago. Both executives as well as other members of the Gowalla team will join Facebook in January next year, although the exact number was not disclosed.

An acqui-hire refers to mergers and acquisitions whereby the manpower behind the company is the target of the acquisition, rather than the company.

Quashing earlier rumors that it bought Gowalla, Facebook said in a statement: "While Facebook isn't acquiring the Gowalla service or technology, we're sure that the inspiration behind Gowalla will make its way into Facebook over time."

Like its rival Foursquare, Gowalla lets users check-in their whereabouts at locations using their smartphones, but lost out to Foursquare which continued to grow in popularity and user numbers at its expense.

Facebook has its own location-based features built into its Web site.

According to Reuters, the social networking giant declined to reveal what product or service the Gowalla recruits will work on at Facebook, except to say the executives will join its design and engineering teams. However, Williams said in his blog post that the Gowalla team plans to provide "an easy way for users to export their data, such as photos posted to the soon-to-be-shut-down service". He added that Facebook will not be acquiring Gowalla's user data.

The talent acquisition follows Facebook's announcement last Friday that it will open an engineering office in New York City in 2012, the first outside the U.S. West Coast, with plans to hire thousands of engineers and technical talent. Facebook presently has 100 employees working in the city, though mostly in advertising and marketing.

The recruitment announcements also come amid reports that Facebook is planning to raise about US$10 billion in an initial public offering, which would value the company at more than US$100 billion.


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