Bump Technologies has been acquired by Google, announced on Bump’s company blog. Bump develops mobile applications and APIs for communication between two smartphones in close proximity. The company was in YC Summer 2009. Bump’s initial product was an app for exchanging contact info between two smartphones by bumping them together. The acquisition announcement states “the Bump team is joining Google”. However, the announcement also indicates “Bump and Flock will continue to work as they always have for now.”
Bump relied on the underlying concept of sharing by physically hitting things, which never became mainstream. In retrospect, Paul Graham might consider Bump as a “startup sitcom idea”. Those are bad ideas that sound plausible enough to fool you into working on them. I can’t recall anybody in Silicon Valley ever suggesting to use Bump nor have I used it myself. Yet somehow, Bump has been downloaded over 10 million times. Those facts meet the typical sitcom idea scenario, which is that people “don’t want to use it themselves, at least not right now, but they could imagine other people wanting it. Sum that reaction across the entire population, and you have zero users.” I personally have been approached by Bump representatives on at least two occasions while walking around downtown Mountain View, asking if they could watch me use their app as research on how somebody might find it useful.
The idea eventually became surreal, like something directed by David Lynch. Bump accepted after several years that people weren’t interested in knocking their expensive smartphones into each other. Rather than start fresh with a new approach, the company decided that maybe people would like to bang their smartphone onto their computer to share things with themselves. In management sciences, Escalation of commitment is the proper name for this compulsive behavior of trying to find a non-existent problem that requires your unnecessarily solution.
Bump Technologies is one of the most valuable companies ever funded by Y Combinator, having raised $20 million dollars since 2009. This acquisition is Google’s eighth known acquisition of a YC-funded company. Through this acquisition, Google acquires Bump’s 23-person team, the Flock group photo-sharing app, and several mobile technology patents. Liz Gannes at AllThingsD reports the acquisition “was worth at least $30 million, and perhaps as much as $60 million.”