Liz Gannes over at Gigaom has a coined new term for what Google is doing now that it is back in the $3-15MM acquisition game for former Googlers that have left the nest: "acquiring," a mixture of acquiring and hiring. In the case of companies that have received external funding, this is a fast way to poison the well (after all no fund, no matter what the size, has its needle moved by such low dollar exits) so it's pretty clear that it is a bad thing for the ecosystem. In the case of bootstrapped companies however, I can't tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
It is a good thing because the founders of these projects walk away with two really important things: some cash in the bank and the confidence that they can build something that is valuable to someone— valuable enough that the mighty Google is willing to pay an especially outsized hiring bonus for it.
It is a bad thing because it creates the feeling that shooting for feature on products is a viable (and relatively safer) way to achieve success. This is an illusion for two reasons: first, future real investors and employees are savvy enough to see these types of exits for what they are. And second it allows entrepreneurs to focus on incremental "pickoffs" from the guessable product roadmaps of mainstream products instead of completely disruptive ideas.
Another way to put it: I've met with a few folks in the Boston ecosystem recently who are trying to get this "Think Big" meme jumpstarted with entrepreneurs and investors. And sadly, these "acquhires" seem to be taking us all in exactly the opposite direction.