Twitter’s Boston Acquisitions: Crashlytics Tops $100M, Bluefin Labs Close Behind

2/5/13Follow @gthuang

People are talking about Twitter’s Boston-area acquisitions today. Some more than others. Unsubstantiated rumors and prices are flying around like so many careless tweets. Whom should you believe?

Answer: Xconomy (and me). Hey, I’m sticking my neck out here.

Independent of other media reports, I have it on good authority that Twitter is acquiring Bluefin Labs, a Cambridge, MA-based startup working on social-media analytics around television. The price I’ve heard is in the neighborhood of $100 million, maybe a little less. Not too shabby. Bluefin Labs started in 2008 out of the MIT Media Lab and has raised about $20 million in venture funding from the likes of Time Warner Investments, SoftBank Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Acacia Woods Ventures, and Lerer Ventures.

At least one media outlet suggests that Bluefin is Twitter’s biggest acquisition to date. My sources say that is false.

Here’s why. Last week, Twitter acquired another Cambridge startup, Crashlytics, which does mobile software and bug-fixing for app developers. Sources with inside knowledge tell me that deal is worth more than $100 million in cash and stock.

That number will be a surprise to most people. It blows out of the water the notion that the deal was a relatively low-priced talent acquisition of a young company. Crashlytics has only been around since 2011; it has raised about $6 million from Flybridge Capital Partners, Baseline Ventures, and a lineup of angel investors who are household names in Boston tech. I’m hearing that those angels got a higher-than-10x return on their investment, plus some of their original money back (because the company apparently didn’t spend it). The VCs aren’t complaining either.

Neither Bluefin Labs nor Crashlytics have responded yet to requests for comment on their respective acquisitions or terms.

In any case, it appears Crashlytics is Twitter’s largest purchase to date, followed by Bluefin Labs, at least in terms of their enterprise value—i.e., what they’re worth today, not counting milestones or retention fees. (By comparison, TweetDeck went for less than $50 million.)

What does all of this say about the future of Twitter in Boston? Well, it sounds like the San Francisco social-media giant is making a large investment in the Northeast, across mobile devices, TV, and analytics. There will probably be more to this story soon, if and when Twitter decides to talk about its strategy. In the meantime, maybe a company like Facebook should pay more attention to Boston.

On second thought, maybe not.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.socialbakers.com/ Michal Smetana

    It seems like Twitter has started to invest a lot and make a lot of new acquisitions. I wonder what long-term consequences will that have for them.

  • nupark

    $100M for something you can build in 6 months for less than $1M — and many, many people have — would have been a profoundly stupid acquisition price for Crashlytics.

    • http://twitter.com/bwhalley Brian Whalley

      Ideas aren’t worth much. Good execution is. Creating a library and getting it onto 500M+ devices is apparently worth big money to Twitter. That’s what you can’t do for under $1M.

      • cynicwithtaste

        I’d also like to know how much of it is cash versus Twitter stock and the the valuation on the Twitter stock. $100 million of illiquid Twitter stock at a $5 to $10 billion valuation is a lot different than cash.

      • nupark

        Except that *others have*. This isn’t academic conjecture. If Twitter paid anywhere near $100M, they were hoodwinked.

        • http://twitter.com/bwhalley Brian Whalley

          Who else has produced a similar library that is installed on hundreds of millions of devices? Curious, I don’t know of anyone.

          • nupark

            You’re that unfamiliar with the crash reporting and analytics space? Seriously? Then why are you even commenting on this article?

          • http://twitter.com/therealkerni Andreas Linde

            PLCrashReporter was the first crash reporting library for iOS and is available since early 2009, used in thousands of apps ever since. Crashlytics heavily based their first SDK on that library. Then there are QuincyKit, Crittercism, Bugsense and HockeyApp, all also using PLCrashReporter as a foundation. And yes, all of them are installed on hundreds of millions of devices. And there are many more out there.