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Facebook Buys Social Startup Branch to Spearhead New 'Conversations' Group

January 13, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230804

Facebook has acquired social startup Branch Media and hired its 9-person team to head up its new Facebook Conversations group in New York.

In an announcement on Facebook this morning, Branch CEO and co-founder Josh Miller explained the new arm of the company was created "with the goal of helping people connect with others around their interests. Their pitch to us was: 'Build Branch at Facebook scale!'" According to a report from The Verge, Branch was purchased for about $15 million.

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Branch is behind several messaging and discussion tools, including the eponymous Branch (initially called Roundtable), a platform for invitation-only, in-depth conversations. The company also created Potluck, a "bite-sized" link-sharing service for the iPhone, and most recently, PhoneTag Messenger, described as a "free photo walkie-talkie" that has users send a photo with an accompanying voice recording.

Miller wrote in his announcement that while the future Facebook products will be "reminiscent of Branch and Potluck," the existing Branch tools will continue to be their own entities. He also thanked the company's investors, including Buzzfeed's Jonah Peretti and Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone and mentor Jason Goldman, who supported Branch through their incubator, the Obvious Corporation.

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Along with co-founders Hursh Agrawal and Cemre Güngör, Miller clearly aims to influence how people engage with each other online, and has been critical and vocal about Facebook's scope and impact in the past.

In a Medium post from May titled "The Next Facebook," Miller wrote, "My hunch is that for a company to become The Next Facebook, it will need to enable a novel network of people. That's not to say it won't start with your friends -- Twitter didn't have Oprah on Day One -- but ultimately its network will need to look different than your Address Book. Otherwise, it'll just be another watering hole." With that attitude in mind, it will be interesting to see how the Conversations group evolves.

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