Google Buys Picnik, Developing Its Strength in Photo Editing and Storage

3/1/10Follow @gthuang

Well, this is no big surprise. Seattle-based Picnik was on everybody’s list as a local tech company with great potential to be acquired. The photo-editing startup announced today it has been bought by Google. Terms of the deal weren’t given, but this is big news for a startup community that hasn’t seen a major tech exit in some time. One question is how many other suitors were trying to acquire Picnik.

A blog on the company’s site says, “What does this mean for Picnik? It means we can think BIG. Google processes petabytes of data every day, and with their worldwide infrastructure and world-class team, it is truly the best home we could have found. Under the Google roof we’ll reach more people than ever before, impacting more lives and making more photos more awesome.”

Last month, we reported that Picnik had surpassed the 1-billion-photos-edited mark and was ahead of Flickr’s growth curve before the latter merged with Yahoo Photos. It will be interesting to see how Picnik’s subsequent growth compares to Flickr now that it will be integrated with Google. An interesting point here is that the integration between Picnik and Flickr, which was crucial to Picnik’s growth, is certainly threatened by the Google acquisition—since Flickr is the archrival of Google’s Picasa photo service.

Picnik CEO Jonathan Sposato has previous connections to Google. The Mountain View, CA, search giant bought Sposato’s previous startup, Phatbits, in 2005 (the software became Google Gadgets). Sposato stayed on and worked from Google’s offices in Kirkland, WA, for just under a year before leaving to join Picnik, which had been started by Sposato’s friends Mike Harrington and Darrin Massena in late 2005. It’s clear that Google keeps a close eye on its alums’ companies.

One thing that makes Picnik stand out is that it was bootstrapped and never took outside funding—venture capital or otherwise. The company has been cash-flow positive since November 2008. Last spring, Sposato told me, “What is the point of having your own startup if you have to work for The Man again?” (It’ll be interesting to hear his thoughts on joining Google once again.)

And something else Sposato told me last year has added significance now. “Our mission statement is to make ‘Picnik’ an Internet verb,” Sposato said. “Think of it as the Google of photos.”

The company will be moving, but not very far from its Belltown office. Picnik says its team, which currently numbers 20 employees, will continue working on Picnik from Google’s Seattle offices (presumably in Fremont, just a few miles away), and that “nothing is changing right away.”

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 or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.