Facebook Said To Acquire Gowalla As Internal Hiring Expands

With Facebook preparing what could be one of the nation’s largest-ever IPOs, the company appears to be bulking up its technology arsenal by acquiring location-based startup Gowalla and hiring thousands of new workers.

The news of the acquisition was reported late Friday by CNN Money, which said most of the small Austin-based company’s staff would be transferred to Facebook’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters. No independent confirmation was available and terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gowalla has been trying to reinvent itself in the face of stiff competition from Foursquare. Facebook also has been looking to better establish its location-linked offerings after pulling back on Places this summer.

The social networking giant is said to be considering raising as much as $10 billion in an IPO with a target date of April to June. The offering could value the company north of $100 billion. With an initial filing possible as early as this month, Facebook said Friday it plans to hire thousands of employees over the next year to keep up with expected rapid growth.

“We are growing very quickly and have been through (this) economy,” Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said at a press conference. When asked if that would continue, she said: “That’s what we are betting on.”

Facebook does not publicly release its earnings, but a source with knowledge of its results told Reuters in September that the company posted nearly $500 million in net income in the first half of the year on revenue that doubled from a year ago to $1.6 billion.

Sandberg visited New York City on Friday to announce that her firm would start hiring engineers in the city, where it has a small Madison Avenue office with about 100 employees. The vast majority of its 3,000 workers are in Palo Alto and at a satellite campus in Seattle.

She did not say how many engineers Facebook would employ in New York or disclose exactly how many workers the firm will add in the coming year.

“We are trying to grow at a clip that will allow us to get the very best people and integrate them,” she said at a press conference where she was joined by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Charles Schumer. “We will be adding thousands of employees in the next year.”

Facebook currently leases 40,000 square feet of space for its advertising and marketing division on a single floor at 335 Madison Ave, also known as Bank of America Plaza.

It is nearing a deal to close on another 40,000 square feet there, according to a sources familiar with the transaction. Officials with Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that deal.

(Mark Boslet contributed to this story)