As Facebook Eyes Up Little Eye Labs, Twitter Is Also Looking At A Startup In India

Reports of Facebook looking to acquire Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs highlight a growing interest from the Internet’s biggest firms in acquiring engineering and startup talent from India. But Facebook is not the only one.

Twitter has been eyeing up an acquisition of Bangalore-based Frrole, a big data startup that sifts through half a billion Twitter posts every month to offer insights about users. Sources directly familiar with the negotiations tell me that the companies are still exploring ways to make it work.

Facebook has declined to comment on the report, and Little Eye Labs officials were unavailable for comment at the time of writing this post. But sources familiar with the Bangalore-based startup said “as of now, there’s nothing on the table.” We know a lot happens before such deals “actually get on the table” but this person tells me for now the report is, indeed, pure speculation.

Twitter had not responded to my email seeking comments on its interest in Frrole.

For Facebook, which now has over 114 million users in India, the country is beginning to look like an attractive market in the years to come. Mark Zuckerberg had told me in an interview earlier this year that Facebook saw opportunities in tapping the country’s smartphone population.

“India is a really big opportunity if we can achieve something like this (getting the next billion Internet users),” Zuckerberg had said in the interview.

What’s also fueling the interest in acquiring Indian startups is an aggressive push from industry veterans who have worked with Facebook, Google and Microsoft for years.

One of them is Sharad Sharma, former head of Yahoo’s R&D operations in Bangalore, who co-founded an Indian software product think-tank iSpirt.

He tells me that the rumours of Facebook acquiring Little Eye Labs may be premature, and speculative but that does not mean there is any lack of interest from potential acquirers.

“Companies like Facebook and several others have no R&D presence in India and they are missing out on discovering talented startup teams working in their interest areas,” Sharma says.

iSpirt, a recently launched industry lobby and think-tank for software product startups in India, has been actively reaching out to potential acquirers including Facebook and Google. In fact, iSpirt has a list of 10 potential targets that could be acquired by the Silicon Valley based companies. In October this year, iSpirt also signed up Signal Hill Capital to drive more acquisitions of Indian startups by U.S. companies.

In May this year, iSpirt took over a dozen Indian software product entrepreneurs (including Little Eye Labs co-founder Kumar Rangarajan) to the Silicon Valley and curated discussions with M&A executives at several top firms.

In fact, iSpirt has a list of 10 potential targets that could be acquired by the Silicon Valley-based companies.

Update: Frrole provided the following response to the story. “The reports are incorrect we would like to clarify, there currently are no acquisition discussions between @frrole and @twitter. Thanks.”