Facebook vs. Google, Polaris Skips Town, HackStars’ Unlikely Origin, & More in the Seattle-Area Tech Roundup

As the Web becomes more social, will search start to whither as a primary means for consumers to access the Internet? That’s been suggested by some folks in the tech world, as the rise of Facebook begins to create a dynamic layer on top of the “regular” Web that isn’t fully reachable by Google’s crawlers.

To get an update on the thinking behind this debate, we convened a couple of Seattle entrepreneurs who spend a lot of time researching and discussing the consumer Web: Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz and Ben Elowitz of Wetpaint. The result was a long, lively back-and-forth that generated some acquisition advice for Google, speculation about Facebook’s search deal with Bing, and interesting questions about which behemoth is scarier as the main filter of our information.

There was plenty more good stuff in the past week or so on the Xconomy Seattle tech beat, even with a short holiday week:

—Bob Buderi checked in from Boston with an exclusive update to Polaris Ventures closing down its Seattle office. Turns out the change is part of a broader move to expand in California, with general partner Brian Chee relocating to head up a coming-soon office in Palo Alto. Polaris co-founder Steve Arnold plans to continue working from Seattle, the firm said.

—I took a look at the story behind the HackStars program, a new-to-Seattle feature of the TechStars startup accelerator. HackStars recruits a pool of people who can code, design, and hack their way through projects that TechStars companies need some help with. If it works out, they might even wind up with a job—or a co-founder’s stake. That’s what happened with Sam Herbert of ADstruc, who unwittingly helped start HackStars by getting rejected from the main program and then brought on as a bit of extra technical help.

—Trinity Ventures led a $10 million investment in Act-On Software, an online marketing company based in Beaveron, OR. Previous investors Voyager Capital and U.S. Venture Partners were back for this round, which was based on a valuation of about $40 million—“a substantial step up,” according to founder and CEO Raghu Raghavan. It’s a nice Northwest success story: Raghavan started Act-On after leaving his previous company, Responsys, which relocated to California. He’s been vocal about staying in Oregon, saying there’s no reason to think a tech startup has to move south to succeed.

—Just before Groupon filed its IPO paperwork, a couple of Seattle players in the crowded online deals sector announced they were combining forces. We’re talking about Tippr acquiring DealPop, which was formerly part of WhitePages.com. Tippr’s strategy involves going heavily after online publishers, rather than working directly with merchants, as Groupon has done. Not to be outdone, Groupon came back the same day with some pre-IPO news: It’s partnering with Bellevue, WA’s Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE) to provide travel discounts.

—Luke took a trip over to the new Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters for a preview tour, which included a speech from BillG, a smattering of local notables, and—seriously—a gospel choir singing “Lean on Me.” Oh, and amazing architecture, which Luke captured with some great snaps from his Windows Phone 7 device (coincidence).

—Briefly: Intellectual Ventures signed up a two-way licensing deal with Boise, ID-based Micron Technology; online property-tax challenge service ValueAppeal added $1.6 million in financing; and Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) continued its makeover by shifting about 700 customer service workers to a vendor.

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