Well, it turns out the buyer of Bubbleshare isn’t News Corp. Instead, it’s Toronto-based Kaboose Inc., which is buying the photo-sharing service for $2.25-million to strengthen it’s position as “the biggest independent, family-focused online media company in North America”. (That’s a real mouthful, eh!).
Anyway, the deal will see Bubbleshare CEO Albert Lai and his team join Kaboose, which is looking to develop its community and social networking activities. It’s a small transaction but can only be seen as a successful for Lai, who made its first entrepreneurial splash when he and his partners sold MyDesktop to JupiterMedia in 1999. Hopefully, it will also provide Canada’s Web 2.0 community with some inspiration/encouragement that there are rewards if you take the plunge. I’ve got a lot of respect for Lai but the reality was Bubbleshare was more a feature than a business so it’s future hinged on a buy-out. At the end of the day, he and Bubbleshare did well.
The question you have to ask is whether News Corp.’s apparent $5-million offer for Bubbleshare was pulled off the table when details of the deal were leaked.
Under the terms of the transaction, Kaboose will buy BubbleLabs Inc. for $2.25 million with another $750,000 on the table based on an earn-out.
Update: Much to my surprise, Kaboose offered up its CEO, Jason DeZwirek, for an interview (and you thought only the mainstream media got to interview CEOs). I’ll provide a Q&A later in the post (see “continue reading” at the bottom) but wanted to highlight a couple of things from our discussion. Kaboose attracts 10 million unique visitors a month during its peak season (October to December) – 80% to 85% from the U.S. When asked whether the Bubbleshare purchase could inspire Canadian Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, here’s what DeZwirek had to say: “I hope that’s the case. If it is a by-product of it, that would be great. I think it’s a real shame that Canadians aren’t as active in the new media environment as we could be. Part of the reason is we are too Canadian-focused. People who are working on things are focused on the Canadian audience only, and that is not what the Internet is about. Although Kaboose and Bubbleshare are Canadian companies, we are both developing tools and applications that have universal appeal.”

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Can you talk about when discussions with Bubbleshare started?
We have been aware of bubbleshare since early summer and have been talking to them on an off over that time. Things accelerated over the last 30 days or so. But our belief has always been and is today they have a great set of tools with respect to sharing photos that are extremely easy to use. From our perspective, our audience of 10 million users a month is largely families and from that largely moms, and photos are a big part of preserving and sharing family memories. We have needs across the board for all our properties, not only photo sharing tools but other tools and applications, and the development team at bubble has a great skill set.

There are dozens of photo-sharing services out there. Did it help that Bubbleshare was in your backyard?

Yes, it was [helpful]. We weren’t specifically shopping for a photo sharing company. We were doing ‘buy, build partner’ scenarios for social networking tools and applications, which we view photos as an integral part of. From that angle, [Bubbleshare] is a great company and a great team where we have a photo application pretty much baked and ready to go and the team and technology can server as basis for a number of other social networking tools we plan to introduce this year.

Are you looking for more acquisitions?
We are very acquisitive company. This is our ninth acquisition. Our company has been built on acquisitions. This is the first time we have really bought tools and applications or technology. We have bought larger operating companies and larger Web companies. Ultimately, we see the Bubbleshare tools as generating traffic, retaining user and generating more pageviews. We are still focused on buying properties but our mission is helping parents plan and share family life.