Snapchat could help you organize a night out with friends or get a digest of the day’s news thanks to its acquisition of mobile search startup Vurb. TechCrunch caught wind of the impending deal over the weekend and now The Information reports Snapchat is in the closing stages of talks to pay $110 million for Vurb (75 percent stock, 25 percent cash). Snapchat is also said to offer $75 million in retention bonuses to keep Vurb founder and CEO Bobby Lo around.
Unfortunately, rewiring people’s behavior patterns around search proved too difficult, even if Google wasn’t built for mobile. Vurb struggled for mass traction, and now it’s selling. Snapchat tells me it’s not commenting on the news. Lo said he was bound by legal restrictions, so he couldn’t talk about it — which points to a deal.
Vurb won TechCrunch’s Disrupt NY 2014 Startup Battlefield competition with its take on mobile search focused around browsing rather than endless results pages. Vurb could help you check out movies, find a theater to watch one and restaurants nearby where you might want to eat. Then you could bundle these options and share them with friends. Vurb made mobile decision-making collaborative. Traditional search engines didn’t understand how those things would connect.
Vurb’s card-based interface pulls in information from partners like Yelp and Rotten Tomatoes, and can deep-link you out to Uber and Google Maps. It later aimed to become a monolithic WeChat-style app that built utilities from third-parties onto its new instant messaging feature to help you arrange plans. And just last week it added more personalized recommendations.
You can see how Vurb works in this demo video we made:
It’s unclear exactly what Vurb will do at Snapchat, but helping users make plans with friends is one possibility. Vurb could build upon Snapchat’s existing feature that automatically turns addresses into map links. When users chat about a movie, restaurant or place, Snapchat could help them learn more and arrange to meet up there.
Alternatively, Vurb’s more recent direction of trying to be a daily information digest for mobile users could fit somehow into Snapchat. Imagine if alongside the professional content Discover channels there was a personalized view of what’s going on in the world distilled for the modern (i.e. short) attention span.
Vurb is another startup coming to an end as part of The Conclusion, a trend we wrote about yesterday where startups are running out of money as fundraising gets tougher following the recent market correction. Rather than simply vaporize or testing ideas in a ghost town, selling to Snapchat could allow Vurb to fertilize the mobile future as part of an app people actually use.