Google Buys Facebook App Install Player Toro, Echoing 2012 Wildfire Buy

google-toroGoogle has snapped up Toro, a tool that helps developers market their apps on the Facebook platform. The deal appears to be an acquihire, since Toro employs fewer than 10 and has begun urging customers to seek out alternative partners to support their Facebook install campaigns. (Read the blog post.)

Google declined to comment other than to confirm Toro’s staff will join its mobile ads team.

The deal marks the second time Google has bought a company entrenched in Facebook’s ecosystem. More than two years ago it acquired Wildfire Interactive for $250 million. While the two companies are substantially different – Wildfire had a more scaled business, more people and an undoubtedly higher purchase price – the Toro buy shows how important it is to be plugged into Facebook, even if you’re Google (or perhaps especially if you’re Google).

But the big difference is that when it bought Wildfire, Facebook marketing was all about managing social presence. Today it’s much more about the paid media experience on desktop and mobile. While the Toro product appears destined for the scrap heap, the institutional knowledge will find its way into Google’s mobile ad products.

Toro was founded by former Zynga developers, who initially called the company Red Hot Labs. About 30 app marketers use the company’s tool to create split tests for their install campaigns, rebalance budgets and track post-install metrics. The tool has only been in market for about seven months.

As Toro CEO Amitt Mahajan told AdExchanger in November, “There are a dizzying number of options for how to do the targeting and how to interpret the results” of Facebook app install campaigns. “Most people are actually targeting very broadly and don’t use the segmentation features correctly, which means they see poor results coupled with the high cost of installs.”

One of its customers was mobile app Burner, whose CEO, Greg Cohn, praised Toro this way: “When you have a great product and your market has been validated, the main challenge is finding the best method to reach that market while avoiding low-quality installs that don’t convert. When managed by hand, this is a very time-consuming and inefficient process.”

Toro raised a $1.5 million seed round two years ago from Greylock Partners, General Catalyst Partners and other investors.

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