Google Chrome Shines, Salesforce Scoops Up Heroku, Wings Gets Clipped, & More Bay Area BizTech News

Maybe, while the rest of the country endures a jobless recovery, the Bay Area is blowing itself a new bubble. Or maybe everybody just wanted to release their year-end news before the holiday rush. Whatever the reason, the Bay Area infotech scene was packed with back-to-back news events last week. Take a deep breath:

—Google launched an online e-book store and e-reading apps for several mobile devices, as well as an app store where users of Google’s Chrome browser can download Chrome extensions that give the browser some of the powers of desktop software. The company also announced that Samsung is bringing out a new Nexus phone running a “pure” version of Google’s Android mobile operating system, and it previewed a line of Chrome-powered notebooks coming to market in 2011. I covered the news in an all-in-one Google wrap-up.

—San Francisco-based acquired Heroku, a Web applications hosting company specializing in the support of Ruby apps, for $212 million. It was the most lucrative exit ever for a startup originally backed by the Mountain View, CA-based Y Combinator venture incubator.

—The trade association TechAmerica released a study quantifying the recession’s effect on high-tech employment in 60 leading “cybercities” across the United States. The Bay Area was among the nation’s hardest-hit regions, losing more than 16,000 jobs in computing and related areas between 2008 and 2009.

—At a soiree at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts, Facebook investor and former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel challenged other wealthy Silicon Valley notables to contribute to future-oriented non-profit groups such as the Foresight Institute, the Santa Fe Institute, and the Seasteading Institute. Thiel pledged to match attendees’ contributions to eight groups, up to a limit of $1,000 per person per group.

—Waze, an Israeli-born startup that relocated this year to Palo Alto, CA, raised $25 million from Blue Run Ventures, Magma Venture Partners, Vertex Venture Capital, and Qualcomm Ventures to scale up its crowdsourced traffic advisory app for smartphones.

—Journalists and startup entrepreneurs gathered at the News Foo conference in Phoenix, AZ, to debate how the Internet is changing the news business; I wrote up some impressions from the conference, which was organized by O’Reilly Media, Google, and the Knight Foundation.

—Bay Area firms McAfee, Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC), Check Point, and Altera (NASDAQ: ALTR) were among nine companies named as defendants in a series of patent infringement lawsuits filed this week by Seattle-based Intellectual Ventures, as Greg reported. The patents at issue relate to security and anti-virus software and field-programmable gate arrays.

—I profiled Prysm, a San Jose startup whose laser phosphor displays are turning up in retail stores such as American Eagle Outfitters’ new flagship store in New York’s Soho district. Prysm presented last week at Xconomy’s big 5×5 event in Boston.

—San Francisco-based Zendesk raised $19 million in Series C funding from Matrix Partners, Charles River Ventures, and Benchmark Capital to boost hiring and take its online help desk software to international markets.

—The creators of Wings, a Facebook dating app that I profiled in July, announced that they plan to shut down the service and shift users to a new dating site called DateBuzz. The new service puts less emphasis on algorithmic matching of users and more on features that allow them to rank one another as “dateworthy” or “buzzworthy.”

—Taulia, whose Web-based software helps suppliers offer time-based “dynamic discounts” as incentives to their customers to pay faster, collected $3.2 million in Series A funding from Matrix Partners, Trinity Ventures, and individual investors.

—Renewable fuels developer LS9 hired a new CEO in the person of Ed Dineen, former chief operating officer at petrochemicals giant LyondellBasell Industries, as Luke reported.

—Continuing on its acquisition binge, Facebook game maker Zynga acquired McKinney, TX-based Newtoy, creator of a Scrabble knockoff called Words With Friends.

—In other deals news, SnapLogic raised $10 million, Flurry raised $15 million, Calisolar raised $3 million, and PacketMotion’s previously announced Series C round grew by $2.7 million to a total of $8.4 million.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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