January 4th, 2012

Quintessential Portland iOS shop Small Society acquired by Walmart Labs


Quintessential Portland iOS shop Small Society acquired by Walmart Labs

Rumors were swirling last night that Small Society—one of the first big players in Portland’s burgeoning mobile startup scene—had been acquired by Walmart Labs, a division of Walmart that deals with social and mobile commerce.

And now Raven Zachary and James Keller, cofounders of Small Society, have confirmed it.

@WalmartLabs, a division of Wal-Mart Stores, has acquired the Small Society team. We will continue to build great mobile apps, but now we will focus all of our attention on a single company – the largest one in the world. Our baker’s dozen team will be joining the existing @WalmartLabs team of five in Portland (and hundreds more located in the Bay Area), committed to growth and job creation here in the city we love. We’re not going anywhere. Portland is recognized as a leader in mobile, with contributions from individuals, startups, and large companies, too.

And here’s Walmart Labs’ take:

As we got to know the Small Society founders, they impressed us with their understanding of mobile platforms, their passion for building great products, and their awareness of the unique opportunities for mobile in the retail space. They’ve delivered apps for huge brands, from the Democratic National Committee to Starbucks, all from a small office over a kebab restaurant in downtown Portland. We quickly realized that Small Society could be a potent addition to our existing @WalmartLabs Oregon office.

“Portland?” you say? Yes–Portland! When we acquired Set Direction in April 2011, one of their employees was a crack iOS developer based in Portland. Since then, we have recruited a few more talented developers in the area. Our Portland office works closely with the rest of the team here in Silicon Valley, and together we will deliver world-class experiences for all of Walmart’s global businesses.

“This is a fantastic outcome for Raven and his team,” said Scott Kveton, CEO of Portland mobile peer Urban Airship, a company which Raven advises. “It cements Portland as the capital of the mobile app development ecosystem. I’m super excited for Small Society!”

And to round out the Portland story, it’s my understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal.

Small Society was the brainchild of Raven Zachary—the guy who helped create iPhoneDevCamp before the iPhone was even open for development and who served as the project lead on the Obama iPhone app—and James Keller—who boasted substantial digital agency experience including a stint at Wieden+Kennedy. The company was designed to be an agency that designed and built beautiful functional applications for iOS devices. Or to be more exact, iPhone apps. And then later iPad apps.

And they exceeded that goal by any estimation.

The team at Small Society landed a number of high profile clients, building the original Starbucks app, the WordPress app, Amazon Gold Box app, and the Democratic National Committee app. With the paramount—in my opinion—being the opportunity to debut their ZipCar app on stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).

I’ll continue to research this story. But in the meantime, congrats to James, Raven, and the entire Small Society team! This is huge news.

Background that may help (or may not)

26 Responses to “Quintessential Portland iOS shop Small Society acquired by Walmart Labs”

  1. Merrick says:

    Congrats to James, Raven and crew. This is most excellent news. I’ve worked with Walmart (a client of Tangible’s), and know first-hand that with Small Society involved, they can make a tremendous amount of impact on the world. Can’t wait to see what they collectively do with this opportunity!

    Bravo guys!

    Now let’s keep this money recycled in Portland ;)

  2. I am torn between being super excited for Small Society and completely befuddled by the term “Walmart Labs.”

  3. Aaron says:

    @J-P Agreed.

    It’s a shame to see all that talent going to one place.

  4. Jmartens says:

    I think Nitin’s MergerTech is on to something….some great success from them recently.

  5. Sheetal Dube says:

    This is excellent news! Congrats Raven, James and team.

  6. Gina Rau says:

    This is exciting news for Raven, James, all the folks at Small Society and the Portland mobile/tech community. Congrats to all!

  7. [...] Turoczy, who covers the Portland startup scene, says that it’s his understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal, terms of which were not [...]

  8. [...] Turoczy, who covers the Portland startup scene, says that it’s his understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal, terms of which were not [...]

  9. [...] Turoczy, who covers the Portland startup scene, says that it’s his understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal, terms of which were not [...]

  10. [...] Turoczy, who covers the Portland startup scene, says that it’s his understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal, terms of which were not [...]

  11. [...] Turoczy, who covers the Portland startup scene, says that it’s his understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal, terms of which were not [...]

  12. [...] Turoczy, who covers the Portland startup scene, says that it’s his understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal, terms of which were not [...]

  13. Amber Case says:

    Wonderful, wonderful news. Congrats to all involved, and the Portland tech community! May this year bring many more.

  14. Brian Enigma says:

    Congratulations Small Society! I sure hope that Walmart Labs is as fun as Muppet Labs!

  15. [...] Turoczy, who covers the Portland startup scene, says that it’s his understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal, terms of which were not [...]

  16. [...] Quintessential Portland iOS shop Small Society acquired by …By Rick TuroczyRumors were swirling last night that Small Society—one of the first big players in Portland's burgeoning mobile startup scene—had been acquired by Walmart Labs, a division of Walmart that deals with social and mobile commerce. And now …Silicon Florist [...]

  17. [...] Turoczy, who covers the Portland startup scene, says that it’s his understanding that Nitin Khanna‘s MergerTech brokered the deal, terms of which were not disclosed. [...]

  18. [...] View article: Quintessential Portland iOS shop Small Society acquired by … [...]

  19. [...] I’ll continue to research this story. But in the meantime, congrats to James, Raven, and the entire Small Society team! This is huge news. Tweet [...]

  20. On the one hand, I congratulate the Small Society team on a successful exit. After 3 years of hard work, I can understand the appeal of having a nice reward and be able to focus on creating rather than worrying about client relations and other consultancy overhead.

    But, 2 reasons why this makes me a little sad. All that talent going to now work on getting people to buy more stuff. Walmart Labs may be an amazing shop, but it’s still Walmart, no? Secondly, Small Society was the no-brainer referral for where to look first if you needed an app, a market pioneer and leader. Seems like it does the opposite of cementing Portland as the leader in mobile now that there is a vacuum there.

  21. Merrick says:

    Ryan, your view on this deal is extremely shortsighted. Yes, 13 people have been taken out of a service business but you’re missing the bigger picture.

    1) More talent. To use your phase: it’s Walmart. They will inevitably feed more and more development resources into this office. That creates a ever-broadening talent pool.

    2) Better mentorship. Again, it’s Walmart. The amount of insights to global consumer behaviors and retail patterns will most definitely lead to tons of unrivaled innovation.

    3) More money. IT’S WALMART! They could easily become the biggest technology office in the downtown area. That could be huge.

    4) Referrals. The bigger they grow, the more talent they have coming to them, the more talent they have to refer others to.

    5) Freedom. They have jobs now. But that means they have jobs. Jobs usually require less time, which means more time for family, friends and the community.

    6) Scale. No offense to what SS has done in the past but It’s Walmart. They have nearly 2MM employees. Virtually unlimited funds. The opportunity they have to make a direct, global impact in mobile+retail or even digitizing retail anywhere at this scale is unfathomable.

  22. Brad Whitaker says:

    Congrats to those who benefited from this deal. What is sad is that Walmart continues to be a scourge for communities, destroying 3 jobs for every 2 they “create”, costing the US nearly 200,000 manufacturing jobs as a result of imports from China, and keeping workers in poverty. I respect the creativity of the Small Society team. I’m just not sure that helping the world’s largest company get bigger and expand their power over monopoly workers and communities is something we should be celebrating.

  23. George says:

    Another one bites the dust and is soon to have all the decision making happening in the Bay Area. The founders will either move to the Bay or leave the company as soon as they vest.
    I’ve seen this happen over and over in Portland software companies.

  24. [...] The deal was managed by Nitin Khanna and MergerTech. It’s the second Portland tech acquisition for the firm this year, who also managed the Walmart Labs acquisition of Small Society. [...]

  25. [...] the fourth acquisition negotiated by MergerTech, this year. Other deals include the acquisitions of Small Society, CrowdCompass, and [...]

  26. [...] managed the deal. MergerTech has been instrumental in a number of Portland acquisitions, including Small Society, CrowdCompass, Geoloqi, Second Porch, and SweetSpot [...]


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