Yahoo snags startup that built personal-assistant app Donna

The tech giant will acquire Incredible Labs, folding the startup's employees into the Yahoo Mail team. The Donna service will be shut down.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read
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The startup Incredible Labs announced in a blog post on Thursday that it will be acquired by Yahoo. It's only the latest in a long line of acquisitions for the company, but this one has some interesting implications.

Incredible Labs is the company behind Donna, a personal-assistant app that does things like remind you about a meeting and or give you directions, a la rival services like Tempo or Google Now. With the move to Yahoo, Incredible Labs will be shutting down the Donna service. Five of the company's seven-person team will be joining the tech giant, including CEO Kevin Cheng, a former Yahoo himself.

"We're looking forward to the possibilities that will come from bringing the Donna vision -- letting technology take care of you -- to Yahoo," Cheng wrote in the blog post. The deal is expected to close in the next few days, said a Yahoo spokesperson.

The team will join Yahoo's communication products team, headed by Jeff Bonforte, and work on Yahoo Mail. The company has had some starts and stumbles trying to overhaul its mail service, giving it a more modern look and feel, but alienating some users in the process. Yahoo reversed course some, notably bringing back the popular tabs feature after users howled at its disappearance.

Still, during an earnings conference call earlier this week, Mayer noted that the company had seen a 150 percent increase in usage of its Mail mobile app. So the Incredible Labs team would likely be working to bolster the app's abilities.

It's also good to have more artificial intelligence gurus in house. Speculation over Yahoo's efforts to build a personal assistant app was heightened late last year when a video depicting what looked like a Yahoo-branded app circulated around the Internet. It turned out that Yahoo was only indirectly involved at the time with the company that made the video.

Here's Yahoo's full statement:

We have reached an agreement to acquire Incredible Labs, the team behind personal assistant app, Donna. In case you haven't heard of her, Donna's pretty amazing - she has an immense amount of intellect, she keeps you on time and gives you the information you need, when you need it. For her clients, she's the ultimate daily habit. When we met with the team from Incredible Labs, it was an immediate fit. As we look to the future, our visions are aligned in that we think technology should be smart enough to think for us. Five team members will join the Communications team in Sunnyvale at deal close, where they will work on Yahoo Mail. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close in the next few days.