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Pinterest in Talks to Buy -- Or 'Acqhire' -- Deep Linking Startup URX

Is another deep linking startup biting the dust?

Kurt Wagner / Recode

Pinterest is in talks to bring on staff from mobile startup URX, according to three sources familiar with the deal.

URX has raised over $15 million in four rounds of financing since launching in 2013. Two sources said the potential Pinterest tie-up would mainly take the form of a talent acquisition, or an “acqhire,” though one source said URX investors may receive some Pinterest stock in the deal.

Pinterest declined to comment. URX executives did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

URX was one of the more prominent startups working on deep linking, a technology that lets apps talk to each other so users can tap from inside one app to access a specific point inside another. The startup released its inaugural mobile ad product a year ago and was also working on a mobile publishing product, but has yet to release it.

Despite their buzzy-ness, URX and competitor Quixey have failed to build sustainable businesses, in part because the two mobile giants, Apple and Google, have accelerated their own efforts to share content that lives inside apps. Quixey has missed sales targets and seen key executives depart. Sources also said that URX had begun to lay off personnel in recent months.

New York City-based competitor Button, however, appears to be building momentum in the space, recently cutting deals with Airbnb, Ticketmaster and OpenTable. It’s still largely an unproven business.

For Pinterest, the URX deal could be in an indication that it’s looking to bolster its mobile ad business. While advertisers often talk about the huge potential of the visual discovery engine, many of them wish Pinterest offered more ad-buying tools. In February, Pinterest hired longtime Google exec Jon Kaplan to lead its global sales operation.

Additional reporting by Ina Fried.

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