Solid engineering talent is such a prized resource nowadays that many tech firms have taken to doing acqui-hires, which is the practice of buying a company for its employees rather than for its products or technology. But it’s not just startup founders and programmers who are benefiting from this trend — the open source community has been a winner as well.
On Wednesday, LinkedIn announced that the technology behind IndexTank, the search engine startup it acquired back in October, has been released as open source software under the Apache 2.0 license. At the time of the deal, it was pretty clear that the IndexTank buy was motivated largely by talent: The company had 11 employees, nine of whom were engineers, and financial terms of the deal were kept under wraps. The technology IndexTank built was very compelling, but the team behind it was likely the most attractive aspect to LinkedIn.
That’s why it’s good news that IndexTank’s code will live on, and that others will be able to build on top of it. IndexTank essentially build software to help search and query large amounts of data, even on devices with limited processing power such as cell phones. It’ll be interesting to see what people do with this now that it’s open source.
It seems that releasing acquired technology as open source software is a growing trend for acqui-hire deals. Earlier this week, for example, Twitter started releasing the code from recently-acquired mobile security startup Whisper Systems as open source software. Some people may see such open source releases as consolation prizes, but it’s better than the alternative: Historically, a startup’s customers worry about products languishing or being shut down altogether after an acquired by a larger firm. These open source releases mean that technology will live on, regardless of what happens with often unpredictable M&A integrations.