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Google's WildFire deal could be worth $400 million

August 1, 2012: 10:31 AM ET

Google pays big to get into the social marketing biz.

FORTUNE -- Google (GOOG) yesterday announced that it had acquired social marketing company Wildfire Interactive, apparently after previously losing out on Buddy Media to Salesforce.com (CRM). A few notes, based on conversations with folks close to the situation:

1. How much? The reported sale price is $250 million, but multiple sources tell me that the total deal is valued at around $400 million once earn-outs and employee retention bonuses are taken into account. Expect that a decent part of that initial chunk is in cash, if not virtually all of it.

2. Return on investment. This is a massive return multiple for WildFire's venture investors, which include Summit Partners, Felicis Ventures, 500 Startups and SoftTech VC. The company's $4 million Series A was done at a $16 million pre-money valuation in April 2010.  Not taking into account dilution from a Summit-led $10 million Series B round in late 2011 (because I don't know the valuation), it's a 12.5x return at $250 million, or 20x at $400 million. Yes, the dilution obviously matters but, no matter what, the distributions should be impressive. Also worth noting that Summit took a real chance with this one, given that it typically invests in much more mature businesses.

3. Seed harvest. But the biggest return goes to seed backer fbFund, a $10 million vehicle backed in equal parts by Accel Partners and Founders Fund. Somewhere in the 50x-100x range, and likely that vehicle's largest win to date. Guess it's a good thing that fbFund didn't remain as a non-recourse grant program, as originally intended.

4. Can FB play nice? On that last point, it's unclear if Facebook (FB) itself had points in fbFund. If so, Google would be in the interesting position of writing one of its biggest rivals an indirect check. More relevant will be to watch how the WildFire-Facebook relationship progresses going forward. So far, both sides are saying all the right things. But how long will Facebook want Google having access to data that could, in theory, be of value to Google Plus?

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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