In July of this year, those of us who loved the Mac and iOS mail client Sparrow were shocked when we got the news that the team had been acquired by Google to work on Gmail. It was a fantastic get for Google, as its native clients have yet to win any awards for design.
But it turns out that Google wasn’t the only one after Sparrow. We’ve confirmed from people in a position to know that Facebook was involved in talks with the Sparrow team before Google came into the picture.
This information seems to jive with a report today on Frenchweb.fr, which claims that the sale of Sparrow was hurried by the fact that Facebook was attempting to ‘poach’ the Sparrow team members from the company. The report says that Sparrow investors Kima Ventures were at loggerheads with the Facebook acquisition team, enough so that lawyers were brought in to prevent the startup from collapsing through loss of employees.
Google picked that moment to swoop in and snag the entire company up for its Gmail efforts, which Kima was apparently very happy about. Frenchweb also reports that the acquisition value was ‘way lower’ than the $20M figure which was initially presented by much of the press, and from what we’ve heard that is likely correct, though we still haven’t been able to pin down a number.
For the moment, I haven’t seen ONE article telling the truth about the Sparrow acquisition story…
— Jeremie Berrebi (@jberrebi) July 22, 2012
This seems to fit with a tweet sent by Kima Ventures co-founder Jeremie Berrebi around the time of the acquisition, in which he said that no article he had seen had gotten the truth of the Sparrow acquisition.
Obviously, Sparrow was a huge win for Google, and the team is remarkably talented, so we should see those efforts pay off in terms of a great Gmail client for us.
As to why Facebook would have wanted the Sparrow team…well, all you have to do is look at a list of their recent acquisitions to see how hot they’ve been about snagging up design-conscious firms. Lightbox, Sofa, Acrylic, Glancee—these are all about getting Facebook mobile friendly and polishing its design. Something that the Sparrow team would have doubtlessly aided in handily.