Google buys Bump mobile app


17 September 2013

Bump, an extremely popular mobile application that had previously raised about US $20 million in funding, has been acquired by Google. What is Bump? It’s an app that takes advantage of near field communication (NFC) to let users transfer digital content (such as photos and videos) from one mobile device to another with a single touch. Just “bump” an iPhone, iPod or iPad against another one with the app installed, and voila: You’ve just shared photos or other files with your friend.

David Lieb, the CEO and cofounder of Bump, has, of course, publicly stated that he’s delighted to see his team to join such a prominent tech giant as Google. The executive was quoted as saying, "Our mission at Bump has always been to build the simplest tools for sharing the information you care about with other people and devices. We strive to create experiences that feel like magic, enabled behind the scene with innovations in math, data processing, and algorithms."

Bump will apparently continue to support the application’s recently unveiled Flock functionality (for photo sharing), which may be a plus for Google, given that the company is apparently trying to make photo sharing one of the most important and appealing aspects of its social network Google Plus. However, the exact terms of the acquisition have not been officially confirmed—the sale price was reportedly US $40 million—so it’s not clear whether it was ultimately advantageous for investors such as Sequoia Capital, Y Combinator, SV Angel, Felicis Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz.

Still, despite not necessarily realizing enormous success prior to the acquisition, Bump has enjoyed a good amount of popularity and was, for a time, an early hit on the App Store. Users seemed to like the “shtick” of tapping phones together to share songs and other media. Reportedly, as of 2012, users were sharing up to 2 million photos daily, and as of February of this year, the app has seen more than 125 million installs. Then again, Bump has not been the only company working on NFC file transfer. For example, Apple has added its Mac OS X NFC file transfer app, AirDrop, to iOS 7, perhaps to compete directly with the app—which means that Bump already has a new rival on mobile.

Again, it’s not immediately clear whether this acquisition was completely useful. On one hand, as an independent company, Bump seemed to struggle to successfully monetize its huge user base. On the other hand, Google may have big plans for its new acquisition that may serve other business purposes.

The bottom line is that while Bump (and Flock) may have struggled as an independent entity, joining Google may make the app much more influential in the long run, even if there doesn’t still seem to be a clear way to monetize the app.