Facebook buys Obvious-backed startup Branch

The New York-based startup "builds social products to empower conversation" and is backed by an incubator that former Twitter bigwigs Evan Williams and Biz Stone created.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
2 min read
Branch home page Jennifer Van Grove/CNET
Adding to its portfolio as it tries to attract new users, Facebook has purchased New York-based social networking startup Branch for an undisclosed sum.

Branchis essentially a modern, user-friendly version of the Internet forum. People create "branches" to discuss topics or links and invite their friends to participate. Thread participants also can "branch off" into separate but related conversations. The startup last year also launched Potluck,an app to introduce today's generation of social networkers to people beyond their immediate friend circles.

The small startup is backed by Obvious,the incubator-investor hybrid machination of Twitter creators Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Obvious announced in March of 2012 that it was lending its celebrity and product expertise to the conversation-focused company. Other investors include Jonah Peretti and Lerer Ventures, John Borthwick's Betaworks, Ron Conway's SV Angel, and other angel investors.

Branch's team of nine will form a new Facebook Conversations group in New York, "with the goal of helping people connect with others around their interests," Branch CEO Josh Miller said in a Facebook post.

Facebook's pitch to Branch was "build Branch at Facebook scale," Miller said. "Although the products we build will be reminiscent of Branch and Potluck, those services will live on outside of Facebook."

The companies didn't disclose the purchase price, but The Verge, citing sources familiar with the deal, pegged the total at about $15 million.

We've contacted Facebook for comment and will update the report when we have more information.