Google Presses Into Visual Shopping With Deal

Mountain View Giant Snaps Up 4-Year-Old Startup For Reported $100 Million

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Google CEO Eric Schmidt's plan to buy a company a month has been on fast forward; lately the search firm has been on a company-a-week pace. The latest? On Friday, Google announced the purchase of visual shopping site, founded in 2006.

A giant banner across's home page displayed CEO Munjal Shah's statement about the buy, in which he describes joining Google as a way to "supersize" his vision of visual shopping. A price for the transaction was not confirmed, but TechCrunch put the amount at greater than $100 million.

With, Google enforces several of its traditional as well new company directives -- as always, visual search technology will strengthen Google's original search product; the shopping aspects of will continue to inch Google closer and closer to point of purchase and help with ad conversion rate; and the social networking angles of, such as its social network called Weardrobe, will move Google to the web's holy of holies where Google has so far been unable to enter - social networking.

In an emailed statement, Google said the deal would help level with e-commerce: "We're pleased and excited to welcome to Google, where they'll work closely with our commerce team. While will operate its websites separately in the near term, we're excited about the technology they've built and the domain expertise they'll bring to Google as we continue to work on building great e-commerce experiences for our users, advertisers and partners."

Mr. Shah's latest dance with Google is not his first. His previous visual search company, Riya, focused on facial recognition software and flirted with an acquisition by Google in 2005. Microsoft took a hard look at the company and walked away from an asking price of $40 million. It appears that Riya simply turned itself into, finding that shopping and fashion is a much more lucrative business than facial recognition. In fact, on a page of the company lists its email for alleged violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as [email protected].

This latest buy tops Google's 2010 shopping spree to 20 companies and more than $2 billion, counting the purchase prices that were disclosed.

All the recent purchases seem to go together well, especially if they call all be integrated seamlessly into the already existing Google products. For example, ITA flight search and travel search products can easily become another e-commerce area for Google. Ruba, the online visual community-created travel guide, seems to blend with's visual search technology as well as the Google Goggles' creator Plink. Spare parts purchased from all over the Internet? Maybe. Geekstars all working for the king of search? For sure.

Irina Slutsky covers social networking and Silicon Valley for Advertising Age. You can follow her at

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