@WalmartLabs Acquires Mobile Agency Small Society

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@WalmartLabs, the retailer’s digital technology division, has acquired Portland-based mobile agency Small Society. The company helped businesses create, develop and launch iOS applications, and has served a number of high-profile clients, including DoubleTree, Starbucks (the original app), Amazon (the Amazon Deals app),  Whole Foods, the Democratic National Convention, WordPress, ZipCar and others.

The three year-old company was founded by Raven Zachary, who is also an advisor to Urban Airship and the founder of iPhoneDevCamp, a non-profit developer conference, and James Keller, who serves as the User Experience and Strategy lead at Small Society. Keller was previously at ad agency Wieden+Kennedy.

According to the announcement, @WalmartLabs has been “incredibly selective” when expanding its team, but felt that Small Society was a great fit:

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.

Zachary says that the Small Society team of a dozen plus will join the @WalmartLabs team of five in Portland, and hundreds more in the Bay Area.

“We are thoroughly impressed by the caliber of the team we will be joining,” he wrote on his personal blog, “Gibu Thomas and Paul Cousineau at the helm of Walmart’s mobile efforts, both with a strong mobile background at Palm, along with Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer, who came over with the Set Direction acquisition earlier this year. We also will be reuniting with Small Society alumni – Brandon Sneed, Sam Grover, and Steve Riggins. The size of the opportunity coupled with the caliber of the talent already assembled made this an easy decision for us.”

Walmart has been making a number of acquisitions in recent months, including Kosmix, OneRiot, Grabble and others. Some of that technology has already found its way into existing products like Walmart’s “Shopycat” Facebook app launched during 2011′s holiday season, for example, and its existing iOS applications.

Going forward, Walmart plans to utilize Small Society’s talents to enhance its own mobile apps. Says @WalmartLabs’ Anand Rajaraman (formerly of Kosmix), “we believe that mobile can have an impact on every part of the shopping experience for Walmart customers, whether in-store or online. We’re very excited to have such talented new team members to help us make that impact.”

Rick 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.