It was the year in which an ephemeral messaging service turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer. The deals that did go through--predictably--did not disappoint in size, particularly in the case of Facebook's epic purchase of WhatsApp.

But before we get to that, here are the runners-up to the biggest startup acquisition of the year.

10 (tie). Google buys DeepMind
Price: At least $500 million
Date: January 26, 2014
That's deep: As Facebook and other Silicon Valley hulks beef up their artificial-intelligence holdings, Google's acquisition of London-based A.I. company DeepMind appears be an attempt to get a leg up on deep learning.
But what does it do? That's unclear. Larry Wasserman, a Carnegie Mellon professor, wrote in 2012 that DeepMind is "trying to build a system that thinks." Since the acquisition, it hasn't gotten any less secretive.



10 (tie). Google buys Skybox Imaging for $500 million
Price:
 $500 million
Date: June 10, 2014
The hype: The Wall Street Journal said the acquisition of the satellite-launching company "could have a bigger impact on its bottom line and on the world than any other recent acquisition by the search giant or its tech brethren..."
The reality: This deal looked tiny compared with other recent valuations and tech-company hauls: Uber had just been valued at $18 billion, and WhatsApp acquired for $19 billion. That's 38 times the apparent value of Skybox, which has a fleet of 24 satellites.


10 (tie). Disney acquires Maker Studios
Price: At least $500 million (much more contingent on future goals)
Date: March 24, 2014
Big numbers: At the time of purchase, Maker Studios, which produces video for YouTube channels, generated more than 5.5 billion views a month from a subscriber base of 380 million. 


9. Google buys Dropcam
Price: $555 million
Date: June 20, 2014
The logic: As DIY security is exploding--and the Internet of Things continues to garner buzz--Google jumped on the goes-anywhere connected-camera maker.
The bundle: With Dropcam now nestled in its Nest Labs bundle, Google owns three major pieces of the home-automation category, with a thermostat, a fire-and-smoke detector, and a security system.



8. Yahoo buys BrightRoll
Price: $640 million
Date: November 11, 2014
Fun fact: As Yahoo starts to spend the $6.3 billion it pocketed from Alibaba's IPO, it made Brightroll--the platform for selling and distributing video advertising--its biggest acquisition since Tumblr last year.


7. Amazon acquires Twitch.TV
Price: $970 million
Date: August 25, 2014
Fast pace: Twitch, the game-streaming platform from the creators of Justin.TV, is only three years old, and, at acquisition, had 55 million monthly viewers.
Competitive deal: Earlier reports from July cited sources claiming that Google had agreed to buy Twitch for $1 billion. Obviously that deal fell through.



6. FireEye acquires Mandiant
Price: $1 billion
Date: January 2, 2014
The backstory: Formerly called Red Cliff Consulting, Mandiant was rebranded by founder Kevin Mandia in 2006. Since then, it has become known for sending in squads of cyber-security professionals to investigate hacker attacks at large companies, financial institutions, and government agencies.
The controversy: Stock in computer-security firm FireEye jumped ahead of the actual acquisition, setting off a Finra investigation of the trading activity. 



5. Facebook acquires Oculus VR
Price: $2 billion (in $400 million cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook stock)
Date: March 25, 2014
What gives? Oculus VR makes the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a blog post what the heck that has to do with the social network. "Oculus's mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences," Zuckerberg says. "Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won't be changing and we hope to accelerate."


4. Microsoft buys Mojang
Price: $2.5 billion
Date: November 6, 2014
Never heard of it? Your kids have. It's the maker of Minecraft, the insanely popular first-person building and world-creation video game.
What gives? Markus Alexej "Notch" Persson, the creator of Minecraft and the majority shareholder at Mojang, decided that "he doesn't want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance," the company's blog announced as terms of the Microsoft sale were being worked out. "Over the past few years, he's made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. He'll continue to do cool stuff though. Don't worry about that."



3. Apple buys Beats Electronics
Price: $3 billion, including $400 million that will vest over time
Date: August 1, 2014
Fun fact: The acquisition, according to Forbes, made Dr. Dre the highest-paid musician of 2014, with an income of $620 million after he joined Apple as part of the deal.


2. Google acquires Nest Labs
Price: $3.2 billion
Date: January 13, 2014
Fun fact: The acquisition of Nest, a maker of home-automation hardware and software, including a smart thermostat and a smart fire detector, was the second-biggest in Google's history. First place: The $12.5 billion Motorola acquisition of 2012.
Bellwether for: Internet of Things booming. One report projects that these sorts of products will contribute more than $600 billion to the U.S. economy in 2025. 



1. Facebook buys WhatsApp
Price: $19.4 billion
Date: February 19, 2014
What's interesting: Google had planned to purchase WhatsApp for about $10 billion, according to sources.
Also: The final figure of nearly $20 billion was based on Facebook's stock price for the six days preceding the deal. It's a total of 35 percent of Facebook's cash.
Big winner, aside from WhatsApp founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum: Sequoia Capital, the only VC investor in the messaging app. It probably netted more than $3 billion on the deal.




Published on: Dec 29, 2014