Small Society, a tiny Portland mobile application development firm which in the past has developed apps for Starbucks,, Zipcar and the Democratic National Committee, has been acquired for an undisclosed price by Walmart.

The acquisition follows news that we broke last week that Ubermind — a Seattle mobile app developer — had been acquired by consulting giant Deloitte.

Obviously, mobile app development is hot right now. And I wouldn’t be surprised if other deals occur.

In a blog post, Walmart Labs’ Anand Rajaraman noted that the acquisition of Small Society was about the people, the products and the customers.

“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,” said Rajaraman.

Interestingly, Ubermind is the developer of the iPad and iPhone apps for Target, one of Walmart’s biggest brick-and-mortar rivals. (I wonder if they were also sniffing around Ubermind, which is a much larger company with about 200 employees in Seattle and Denver). The Small Society team will remain in Portland at existing offices for Walmart Labs, the technology and incubation arm of the giant retailer.

In fact, Walmart noted the importance of Portland as a mobile app development hotbed in remarks today.

“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.”

What’s not known is how Walmart will handle Small Society’s relationship with Amazon, one of the retailer’s biggest rivals. The mobile app development shop last year helped create Amazon Gold Box deal app to the iPhone.

[Hat tip to Rick Turoczy at The Silicon Florist blog]

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  • Thomas

    Doesn’t this seem a little strange?

    iPhone app developers are going through what web developers went through after their first few years of enormous profits.  Enter WordPress et al and the costs and magical tools associated with web development were no longer needed. 

    For mobile, native app development is going through an accelerated period of reshaping (and cost reduction) as the Phonegaps and Senchas move into town.  Plus, iOS looks like it will top out at around 10% of the total mobile market, so, um, why build native for such a small reach?

    I could see if WalMart did this a year ago.  And, for Small Society it’s a nice lifeline.  But at the end of the day I just don’t see that it’s either a cultural or a business fit?  When was the last time someone from Small Society shopped at WalMart?  Do they even know where one’s located?  When was the last time a WalMart exec used Zipcar?  Don’t they all drive Suburbans?  

    OK, lame generalizations aside, it’s a weird kind of deal that I have yet to make sense of.

    • Mike T

      Looking at it three years later, dI’d your assertions hold true?

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