Google’s Purchase of Sparkbuy: Sounds Like it’s More Than Just a Talent Acquisition

5/26/11Follow @curtwoodward

So, maybe Google’s purchase of startup electronics shopping site Sparkbuy wasn’t just a talent acquisition? That’s the word from Scott Silver, director of Google’s Kirkland, WA office, in a follow-up interview with The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley.

Dudley also reports that Google is eyeing the cluster of retail talent in the Seattle area, which has old-school businesses like Nordstrom, Costco, and REI, in addition to the king of pure online sales, Amazon.com. Google has two offices in the region, in Kirkland and Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

We were among the people who looked at the Sparkbuy acquisition as yet another case of a big company snapping up people, rather than product, in this hot talent market. That didn’t seem to be too bold of a prediction, since Sparkbuy had only been unveiled in November and formally rolled out to the broader public at the end of March.

But Silver tells the Times that grabbing Sparkbuy was a product move, not just a way to “hire” Dan Shapiro and crew. Speculation circulated on the web about the talent acquisition, partly because Sparkbuy’s site shut down when the transaction was announced.

“From my perspective I wanted Dan to build his business at Google and not outside Google … this isn’t about talent, this is about the ideas and executing them.”

Shapiro says the acquisition allows the Sparkbuy team to take their startup kernel and suddenly start making it a Google-scale business, a transition that basically amounts to hitting ludicrous speed. Shapiro also says that he first chatted with Silver about the idea behind Sparkbuy last year, well before the site launched in beta, and hearing some intriguing interest: “He said ‘That’s really interesting from a Google perspective,’” Shapiro said.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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