Hootsuite acquires startup, looks set to retain B Corp. status after ICE controversy

Vancouver tech company found itself in hot water last fall

Submitted

Hootsuite Inc. is looking to put some controversy from 2020 behind it with a new year purchase of a startup focused on customer engagement.

The Vancouver-based social media management company announced Tuesday (January 6) it had acquired Sparkcentral Inc.

The U.S.-Belgian company specializes in engaging with customers via messaging services such as Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook [Inc. (Nasdaq:FB)] Messenger, among others.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hootsuite CEO Tom Keiser said in a statement the acquisition came about following requests from customers for more options in “the area of social customer care.”

The acquisition comes the same week as a report from The Logic revealing that Hootsuite looks set to retain its B Corp. status following controversy last fall over a deal struck with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

B Lab Company, which administers the B Corp. certifications for companies that meet what it describes as the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, did not respond to multiple inquiries from BIV after more than a day.

Hootsuite did not immediately respond to questions from BIV about the acquisition or the retention of the B Corp. status.

The Vancouver tech company found itself in hot water last fall when it was revealed ICE had awarded Hootsuite a US$500,000 contract through a third-party vendor.

The American law enforcement agency has been the focus of criticism, controversy and outcry the past two years amid Trump administration policies separating migrant parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexican border.

Hootsuite employees began speaking out publicly about the deal and the company initially issued a statement to BIV on September 23 implying it had no involvement with ICE.

A day later, Keiser acknowledged the deal and said the company had decided to pull out of the contract.

However, an ICE spokeswoman told the newspaper on September 25 that it had received no notification that the contract had been dropped.

Hootsuite has yet to address multiple inquiries from the newspaper to clarify the status of the deal or to clarify the initial statement sent to BIV implying it had no involvement with ICE.

At least two workers who had admonished the ICE contract on social media were let go from Hootsuite shortly thereafter.

torton@biv.com

@reporton