Walmart Ventures Into The Social Media Space With Acquisition Of Kosmix

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Walmart this morning said it is buying Mountain View-based Kosmix, a heavily funded social media technology provider that has built a platform that enables users to filter and organize content in social networks, in order to connect people with information that matters to them, in realtime.

The platform powers a site called TweetBeat, essentially a realtime social media filter for live events that saw more than five million visits last month alone according to its maker.

Additionally, the technology is used to power RightHealth, a popular health and medical information site as well as Kosmix.com, which lets you ‘explore the Web by topic’.

So what is the retailing juggernaut doing picking up a social media startup, which has raised $55 million in funding from a slew of investors over the past few years?

According to a statement, Kosmix’ founders and team will operate as part of a newly formed group dubbed @WalmartLabs and remain based in Silicon Valley. Walmart expects them to create technologies and businesses around social and mobile commerce that will support its multi-channel strategy, thus blurring the line between offline and online shopping.

The founders of Kosmix, entrepreneurs and investors Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman, can be considered ecommerce pioneers. Their first company, database tech company Junglee, was acquired by Amazon for a boatload of stock back in 1998.

They later created crowdsourcing Internet marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Eduardo Castro-Wright, Walmart’s vice chairman, comments:

Social networking and mobile applications are increasingly becoming a part of our customers’ day-to-day lives globally, influencing how they think about shopping, both online and in retail stores. We are excited to have the Kosmix team join us to accelerate the development of our social and mobile commerce offerings.

It’s worth noting that Walmart has a director on its board that knows a thing or two about social networks and online commerce, namely Jim Breyer, partner at Accel Partners and an investor in companies like Facebook, Etsy, Brightcove, Art.sy and Prosper.

But notably, Accel Partners is also a major shareholder in Kosmix – the VC firm has participated in three of four rounds of funding according to CrunchBase. Other Kosmix investors include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Lightspeed Venture Partners and DAG Ventures.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions – Walmart anticipates the deal to close during the first half of this year. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.