Walmart Goes Shopping for Mobile Social Savvy


Wal-Mart corporate raised eyebrows this week with its own purchase: a social media and search startup called Kosmix.

Consider it a strategic move by the retailer to attract more digitally connected consumers and keep abreast of the staggering number of conversations taking place on social and mobile platforms daily.

As Kosmix notes, “On any given day, people share 830 million items on Facebook, upload 6.1 million photos to Flickr, add 2.1 million minutes of video to YouTube and send 65 million tweets.”[more]

The Kosmix team, which will continue to be based in Silicon Valley, will form the basis of a new corporate skunkworks, @WalmartLabs, which will help dream up commerce and technology applications for online retail and smartphone services.

The move is in keeping with Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke’s top priority in 2011 is turning around same-store sales for the global retailer. 

“We are expanding our capabilities in today’s rapidly growing social commerce environment,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, Walmart’s vice chairman, in a statement. “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.”

Kosmix founders Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaraman are web entrepreneurs who sold their first company, Junglee, to Amazon in 1998.

Their Mountain View, CA, firm now runs three sites:,, a health-focused vertical search firm, and, a real-time filter for live events which reportedly attracted 5 million+ visits last month and correctly predicted this year’s Oscar winners. 

Kosmix claims to “Tame Social Media Overload,” with its proprietary “Categorization Platform” based on the world’s largest taxonomy. Founded in 2005, Kosmix is funded by Time Warner Investments, Accel Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, DAG Ventures, Jeff Bezos, Jon Miller, and Ed Zander.

“Our work has focused on developing a Social Genome platform that captures the connections between people, places, topics, products and events as expressed through social media,” says Rajaraman. 

“The first generation of ecommerce was about bringing the store to the web. The next generation will be about building integrated experiences that leverage the store, the web, and mobile, with social identity being the glue that binds the experience.” 

Read more on his blog about the Social Genome project and why Kosmix, and now Walmart, believe it can transform social mobile commerce.