Exclusive: Groupon Acquires Stealth Silicon Valley Startup Campfire Labs

Groupon has continued its (talent) acquisition spree with the recent purchase of a hot Silicon Valley startup before they even launched – and with extremely little fanfare.

We’ve learned that Campfire Labs, which was founded by ex-Googler Sakina Arsiwala (previously Head of International at YouTube) and her husband, social search technology expert Naveen Koorakula (previously at search companies like Inktomi, Yahoo and Picch), was quietly bought by Groupon.

I noticed something was up when ownership of the domain name campfirelabs.com was transferred to Groupon earlier this week – it currently forwards to their site (as long as you leave out the ‘www’).

There’s no good reason for Groupon to gain ownership over the company’s domain name and forward it to their own website, other than Campfire Labs was acquired by them.

From what I can gather, Campfire Labs was working on a social networking service, trying to improve the way people engage, collaborate and converse with others online. Admittedly that’s quite vague, and this recent job description makes us none the wiser:

We’re an early stage seed-funded startup that wants to change the way people think of social interactions in the real world and online. We are committed to building an intellectually stimulating and fun environment, where technology and product excellence are respected above all. We pride ourselves in having an open culture of equals. We have a cozy office in downtown San Francisco with a red couch and a well-stocked kitchen.

We are tackling very complex algorithmic, technology and product problems. We’re building systems designed to scale. Some tools in our toolkit – javascript (node.js, javascript mvc), hypertable, hadoop, C++ and Ruby. We like unit testing, continuous integration and contributing to open source.

Vivek Wadhwa mentioned the startup in a post about entrepreneurship back in July 2010.

We’ve reached out to Groupon and some people at Campfire Labs, and are still waiting on an official confirmation. But we’ve confirmed the deal through unofficial channels.

According to the company’s website – at least, the Google-cached version of it – Campfire Labs investors and advisors included SV Angel’s Ron Conway and David Lee, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, the late Stanford professor Rajeev Motwani, former Facebook and YouTube CFO Gideon Yu, former eBay SVP Michael Dearing, Felicis Ventures founder and MD Aydin Senkut, Splash CEO Michael Powers, Asha Jadeja and Vuclip CEO Nickhil Jakatdar.