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Yahoo Buys Start-Up Distill for Its Mobile-Ad Talent
Posted February 14, 2014
Yahoo Buys Start-Up Distill for Its Mobile-Ad Talent
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By Barry Levine. Updated February 14, 2014 11:00AM

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Yahoo has purchased a start-up that developed a collaborative video-based system targeted at hiring technical talent. But instead of utilizing that unique approach for vetting engineers, the venerable Internet giant will be shutting down the company and hiring its top engineers for mobile ad development.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The start-up, called Distill, had secured $1.3 million in investment about five months back, and had designed and created a system in which a possible hire, such as an engineer, was interviewed through a Skype-like video conversation that also included programming challenges occurring during the interview.

If the prospective employee was, say, a graphic designer, the interview could include a collaborative walk-through and discussion of a portfolio. User names did not have to be exchanged, since an interview could be scheduled online and a link sent to the prospect. With Skype, for instance, the prospect would have the interviewer's user name after the interview, and vice versa.

Tapjoy's History

Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo CEO, has said on several occasions that the company receives 12,000 resumes a week from people interested in working there.

The engineers behind Distill had also been part of the original team that created Tapjoy, a performance-based mobile advertising platform. Tapjoy encouraged mobile device users to watch an ad or download an app in exchange for rewards.

Tapjoy's history includes some controversy. It had been criticized for offering allegedly "free" services that later charged monthly fees on credit cards. However, Tapjoy has now reportedly cleaned up its act, and says it reaches about 450 million mobile users monthly.

A Distill co-founder, Deng-Kai Chen, has described himself in his LinkedIn profile as having been Tapjoy's third employee. Co-founder Ken MacInnis was at StumbleUpon, and later at Yahoo. In all, seven of Distill's employees are moving to Yahoo, including others who also worked at Tapjoy.

'Really Expensive Way'

In a posting on its Web site Friday, Distill announced the acquisition and said that, "as of today, we have stopped development of Distill Schedule and Distill interview." It said that the Distill platform will still be operational through March 30. The service had been in a private beta phase with such companies as Disney and Box.

Roger Kay, an analyst with industry research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, told us that Yahoo's move was a "really expensive way to hire people." He surmised that the technology giant may have spent $10 million to $20 million to buy the start-up in order to get the team, but added that it also buys, in addition to their programming skills, their experience in the mobile ad space and with reward-based ads for mobile, as well as their contacts.

Yahoo's purchase is only the latest in its spending spree, which has included in recent weeks an agreement to buy mobile personal assistant provider Incredible Labs and the purchase of Tomfoolery, a start-up that developed a business app for social collaboration.

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Zane:
Posted: 2014-02-15 @ 5:51pm PT
Should have made a bid for Tapjoy instead, not the company its founders created. Even better, Yahoo should have tried to acquire or partner with Airpush, probably the best mobile ad network out there. Yahoo needs a ton of help in mobile advertising and it needs top talent. I'm sorry, but this isn't going to cut it. They need to aim higher...

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