Facebook’s ‘TheFind’ Another Example: ‘If You Can’t Build It, Buy It’

Never to be outbeat, Zuckerberg's been wise enough to keep a finger on the pulse of consumer preferences in tandem with a keen eye on advertising opportunities. In so doing, one year ago, he shelled out an astronomical $19 billion to acquire the mobile messaging app WhatsApp. To put this in perspective, this one purchase was 19-times what he spent on Instagram in 2012 - and another example of Zuckerberg’s now standard modus operandi: If you can’t build, buy it!

It’s a find . . .

On March 13th, it was announced he had gone and done it again. This time his sights were set on a ‘shopping search engine’ called TheFind.com. For an undisclosed amount, this acquisition signaled the social networking giant’s continued aspirations in two of the Internet’s biggest money-makers ~ namely, search and e-commerce

Prior to the acquisition, TheFind, founded in 2006, had raised $26 million in venture capital from Bain Capital Ventures, Lightspeed Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Cambrian Ventures.


As much as he’s wanted it, up till now Zuckerberg has never quite been able to get his arms around creating his own search engine. One his most noted epic fails of the past occurred in 2013 when he launched ‘Graph Search.’

With an exponential amount of hype, and little else to back it up, it appeared Zuckerberg’s hubris got the better of him, until he came to his senses. In a Bloomberg Business article, he joined his critics with some self-effacing humor when he responded to those who said that Graph Search worked about half the time: “That’s being generous!”

Shop till you flop?

On the e-commerce side of the equation, the company’s desire to recruit retailers also never really proved successful. Retailers like Gamestop, J.C.Penny and Nordstroms Inc. opened as fast as they closed. Even though F-commerce was hailed as the next big thing just a few short years ago, Zuckerberg is probably best served by having TheFind.com team lead the charge from this point forward.

“There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a telephone interview. “But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”

Just building it doesn’t mean it will come . . .

Fortune correspondent Erin Griffith was right on the mark when he noted that, “although Facebook continues to grow revenues at an impressive rate, the 11-year-old, with just over 9,000 employees is no longer a startup. As a result, it is learning a lesson picked up by many maturing tech companies: If you can’t build it, buy it.”

So now that the onus has been skillfully transferred from Zuckerberg to the collective shoulders of the TheFind team, let’s see if that’s enough of an effort to beat the Big G at their game. In so doing, Facebook is definitely positioning itself as the ‘little engine that could, no?

But wait a minute - haven’t a couple of other competitors been after the same brass ring for a while now as well?

According to a recent TechCrunch report, Google’s search market share is actually in decline. In reporting its Q4 2014 earnings, it appeared that Google’s share of U.S. searches, excluding mobile actually dipped below 75% for the first time since July 2008 - and little ole Yahoo overtook Bing as the second-largest search engine when counting desktop, console, table and smartphone queries.

So, maybe Zuckerberg should have been out recruiting previous Google execs instead of buying up yet another software company.

After all, Marissa Ann Mayer was the Vice President of Google Product Search for over ten years until she was appointed President and CEO of Yahoo in July, 2012. Get the picture?