In tech, as in love, things always appear more attractive when they're in high demand. According to The Information, Google devised an awkward and costly way to find out if a startup has any corporate suitors, but WhatsApp declined.

Sources tell The Information that more than six months ago, Google offered WhatsApp a deal "which could have been worth millions of dollars" for the right to be notified if the messaging app started talking to other potential acquirers. You now, a little heads up before things get to the sharing chocolate-covered strawberries phase.

The Information acknowledges that right-of-notice idea may be "far-fetched," considering how that would hurt startup's chances with other buyers. But Google contemplated another strategy as well:

Lawyers and bankers in Silicon Valley say Google's "right-of-notice" offer to WhatsApp last year is somewhat unusual. How frequently Google has pursued the tactic and whether it has ever used it successfully is unclear.

But another person close to the company says that in the beginning of 2013, Google's head of mergers and acquisitions, Don Harrison, discussed an idea for Google to buy stock options in startups in exchange for being notified of future acquisition talks that they engage in. Google would thus get intelligence about startups its rivals wanted to buy. Mr. Harrison raised the idea internally several months after Facebook closed the book on another M&A win: the $1 billion purchase of photo-sharing service Instagram.

Facebook may have nabbed WhatsApp, but the social network, which lost Waze to Google last year, is just as desperate for push notifications. In October, Facebook spent around $120 million to acquire the Israeli analytics company Onavo, which identifies popular apps like WhatsApp, so that Facebook could shut it down to other clients.

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