First off, if you’re affected by this move, I’m sorry. Given Walmart Labs somewhat storied history in the Portland startup community, however, it seemed like it was important to let folks know that the Walmart Labs office in Portland is being closed.
“The unique culture and values of Walmart are at the core of who we are — to our customers, members, associates and partners,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “With this in mind, we’ve made the decision to focus our tech team’s presence within select locations. We hope to relocate or allow for remote work for all affected associates.”
For a town that has been less than welcoming to Walmart, it may be a bit of head-scratcher how they wound up with a regional technology office here. The answer, like so many other regional offices in town, is through acquisition. [UPDATE] To clarify, Small Society was the second acquisition made by Walmart Labs in town. The first was Set Direction, as referenced by Sam Grover.
The glimmers of Small Society began with Raven Zachary’s work as one of the first iPhone consultants which included organizing of iPhoneDevCamp — at a time when the iPhone was still closed to app development outside of Apple (yeah, remember those days?) — and leading efforts on the Obama for iPhone app, at the time, the most popular application on the still relatively new platform.
He joined forces with James Keller in February 2009 to form Small Society, one of the first iPhone app development agencies. Over the course of its existence, Small Society would go on to develop applications for Air New Zealand, CLIF BAR, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and ZipCar, among others. All of which made it — and Portland — a prominent player in the world of mobile development.
After being acquired in 2012, Small Society took on the moniker of Walmart Labs, serving as a regional technology office for the retail giant and continued to be a presence — albeit a much quieter presence — within the local startup community, even taking up residence in coworking spaces around town in later years.
And now, it appears that story has come to an end.
Wishing the folks affected by this news the best. With hopes that they land safely in new gigs. Or start something new. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if there is anything I can do to help.