Walmart‘s Silicon Valley R&D group @WalmartLabs is announcing this morning that it has acquired its 14th startup, social marketplace Luvocracy. As part of the deal, @WalmartLabs will bring in a total of 16 employees from Luvocracy, including founder and CEO Nathan Stoll. Luvocracy offered a Pinterest-like experience where friends and tastemakers can recommend products for others. Now that team will be working to help Walmart.com improve its own product discovery features for shoppers.
The San Francisco-based online community was founded in 2011 by Stoll, who sold his social search company Aardvark to Google back in 2010. The goal of Luvocracy, again, was to capitalize on the power of social connections, but this time, rather than building better search, the idea was to help people find new products from people they trust.
However, in the years since the startup’s debut, Pinterest has come to dominate the social product recommendations space, though it has been more slowly moving in the direction of commerce than Luvocracy did, which featured at launch at “Buy it for Me” service that allowed a simple way to purchase the products you found and loved on its site. Others, including sites like Fancy and Wanelo, also cater to this audience.
Thanks to Stoll’s connections and experience, Luvocracy had raised $11 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Marissa Mayer, Ali Pincus, Jim Lanzone, Tony Robbins, CrunchFund (which was founded by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington), RPM Ventures and XG Ventures.
WalmartLabs did not disclose deal terms.
In addition to Stoll, the deal for Luvocracy also sees a few other notable team members from the startup joining WalmartLabs, including VP of Design Brooke Thompson, previously a Senior Director of Design at Yahoo responsible for their Communications, Communities and Home Page products; VP of Engineering Ajay Agrawal, who formerly was SVP of engineering at Blurb held roles at eBay, Microsoft and Oracle; and Creative director Christine Martinez, a Pinterest “Power Pinner” with over 5 million followers, who also founded LAMA, an e-commerce boutique that represented global artists and makers.
Of Luvocracy’s 20 team members, 16 are relocating to Walmart eCommerce’s HQ in San Bruno, Calif.
Largely an acqui-hire, Walmart is more interested in the talent behind Luvocracy and not the product itself.
Going forward, the plan is to shut down the Luvocracy service, but the details as to how this will be communicated to Luvocracy’s half a million members have not yet been ironed out.
However, at Walmart, the team will be tasked with working on similar challenges, though at a larger scale. Specifically, the team will work to innovate on “design, product and discovery shopping,” the retailer says.
“There’s no bigger stage in commerce than Walmart, and the opportunity to take our vision of social discovery and decision-making in commerce to their audience of hundreds of millions across the world was incredibly attractive,” says Stoll. “And I am super excited about the opportunity to work with the very talented team they’ve been building. Right now, their organization for global e-commerce is about the same size Google was when I joined in 2002 — with the opportunity for huge growth to come as they have so much untapped potential,” he adds.
WalmartLabs has been helping Walmart grow its technical talent through acquisitions over the years, many of which have contributed to large-scale improvements and changes to its e-commerce properties. For instance, one of its earlier acquisitions, Kosmix, was behind the revamped search engine on Walmart.com released in 2012.
The company has also acquired a number of companies to help it face down rival Amazon, including site-speed optimizer Torbit, data analytics and predictive intelligence startup Inkiru, adtech startup Adchemy, mobile agency Small Society, cloud computing startup OneOps, and many others.