Rumor: Google Wants To Acquire Facial Recognition Startup Viewdle For $30M

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Google, according to a report by Forbes, has acquired Viewdle, an augmented reality and facial recognition startup. Forbes says the price was likely around $30 million, but we are still trying to confirm both the acquisition and the price. The Viewdle board, the Forbes report says, approved the acquisition last week and the company plans to tell its employees about it tomorrow afternoon.

Update: Viewdle just returned our email: “We do not have any comment.” Google has not yet responded to our emails. Google also just responded with a comment that it doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation.

Update 2 (3pm PT): We have learned a few more things about the company since we first posted this story. We’ve updated parts of this post to reflect this.

The company was founded in the Ukraine in 2006 and is currently headquartered in Silicon Valley with operations across Europe and South America, including, of course, Ukraine. Viewdle, which won the 2008 LeWeb startup competition, previously received funding from numerous venture firms, including KCP Capital, Anthem Venture Partners, Best Buy Capital, Blackberry and Qualcomm. The company, we hear, raised about $250,000 to $500,000 from an angel investor. Anthem Venture Partners then invested about $2 million in a Series A round in 2008 and Qualcomm, Best Buy and Blackberry invested in a $10 million Series B round in 2010. The founders’ equity in the company, a source close to Viewdle tells us, was heavily diluted in the process and the entrepreneurial team will likely see very little of the purchase price.

We’ve also learned that this is the second time Viewdle is in acquisition talks with Google. The two companies first talked in 2008. In 2011, Motorola was also interested in acquiring the company, but the acquisition fell through after Google acquired Motorola.

Its apps, including SocialCamera and games like ThirdEye, are currently all available on Android, though the company is also currently testing an iOS version of its Face Recognition SDK. Viewdle also owns a number of patents related to facial recognition. While Viewdle’s technology has always been impressive, it looks like the company’s business never took off.

Google previously bought at least two similar startups in the past. In July 2011, the company acquired the Pittsburgh-based facial recognition company PittPatt and all the way back in 2006, it bought the Germany biometrics company Neven Vision.

There is clearly a lot of interested in facial recognition startups right now. Face.com, for example, recently acquired Face.com for just under $60 million (though some of that was in Facebook stock, which is likely worth less now). Still, as Facebook’s recent run-in with German privacy advocates shows, facial recognition is still a rather sensitive subject.