Merger documents uncovered by GeekWire suggest that Amazon last year stealthily acquired Biba, a San Francisco-based company that makes chat, video and audio conferencing tools for businesses.
Documents filed with the Delaware Secretary of State in September 2015 show a series of corporate changes that merged Biba Systems with an entity called Justin Acquisition. Justin’s incorporation documents used Amazon’s address, 410 Terry Ave. N. in Seattle, and the entity was incorporated by Julie Santel, at the time a corporate paralegal focused on U.S. subsidiaries for Amazon, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The deal has flown almost entirely under the radar, and that appears by design. The only reference we could find to it online is an article about IBM that mentioned Amazon acquiring Biba in 2015 and suggests it could potentially put its technology together with Elemental Technologies, a Portland-based video processing company Amazon bought, also in 2015, for $296 million.
We’re not sure what Amazon wanted with Biba because neither side is talking. We’ve reached out to Biba and Amazon in recent days about the documents we uncovered, but have not heard back. Biba CEO Carlin Wiegner didn’t respond to email messages, and the company didn’t return a voice mail.
It’s possible Amazon could be using Biba for internal communication purposes, or the company may be planning an external product that would compete with other workplace communication tools like Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, the newly announced Microsoft Teams and others. These tools have become essential to many teams in recent years, as employees increasingly telecommute or work flex hours. Amazon also competes in business communications with its WorkMail service.
Justin.tv was the name of the predecessor to game streaming site Twitch, acquired by Amazon for $970 million in 2014, but it’s not clear if the Justin Acquisition name is connected to Twitch. One clue that something significant happened at Biba last year: The official Biba Twitter account has been quiet since August 2015, a month before the date of the merger documents.
Biba was founded in 2012 by a group of five friends who were tired of having bad experiences with conference calls. The company started as a way to make it easier to participate in conference calls on smartphones and evolved to encompass other collaboration tools such as video conferencing, screen sharing and business chat. The company raised more than $15 million funding from investors including InterWest Partners, Benchmark Capital and Trinity Ventures.
Biba touts the simplicity of managing its products as well as its security. Biba says it hosts its cloud data on Amazon Web Services and offers several means to encrypt data and protect privacy. Biba’s executives all come from cyber security company Symantec.
“Security principles and best practices underlie the Biba team’s mission to build a product that not only helps you build a collaborative culture and a productive workforce, but also helps keep your organization safe and your company information secure,” according to Biba’s Security Overview.
Amazon spent a total of $690 million on acquisitions in 2015, most of it in cash, according to the company’s annual 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in January. The purchase of Israeli chipmaker Annapurna Labs for a reported price of $350 million, which was not confirmed by the company at the time, as well as the Elemental Technologies deal, were among Amazon’s biggest buys last year.
Other companies acquired by Amazon in 2015 included cloud technology startup ClusterK, 3D shoe-fitting technology startup Shoefitr; database migration startup Amiato; Internet of Things startup 2lemetry, and automated text translation software startup Safaba Translation Systems.