Whither Powerset, the once-hot search engine backed by a heavenly set of angel investors, including Facebook board member Peter Thiel? Little has been heard from the startup since COO Steve Newcomb left amid rumors of a C-suite love triangle. Cofounder Barney Pell — another leg in the whispered-about tryst — is so checked out that he's wasting time coding Facebook applications. The company has been searching, so far fruitlessly, for a CEO. Now comes word that Yahoo may be interested in buying the startup.
It's not clear how interested Yahoo really is. And it's unlikely Powerset will command a high price, if it sells. The company's core technology, XLE, is licensed from Xerox PARC, and for the rest, it mostly uses open source. But for Yahoo, whose in-house efforts to improve its search haven't made a difference in the marketplace, Powerset may hold enough interesting technology to be worth a look. Or perhaps Yahoo, bleeding engineers, is eager to hire en masse through an acquisition. Alas for Powerset's employees: They'd just be trading a small soap opera for a larger one.