Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) is buying long-standing search technology firm Kosmix in what the big-box retailer is describing as a move to expand into “social and mobile commerce.” This is the second purchase Wal-Mart has made in just over a year intended to build its digital presence. Last February, the company purchased online movie service Vudu.
The company says that Kosmix will operate as part of its new Silicon Valley-based @WalmartLabs group, which it says will build “technologies and businesses around social and mobile commerce that will support Walmart’s global multi-channel strategy.”
Kosmix is an odd choice to anchor that effort considering it does not have any direct ties to commerce. The company, which had raised more than $55 million in funding from backers including Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) and Jeff Bezos, has been described for much of its history as a health-centric vertical search firm and still owns top health content aggregator RightHealth. More recently, it has been using its search technology to aggregate content from social media sites and had launched a site called TweetBeat, which aggregates Tweets related to major events.
Kosmix founders Venky Harinarayan and Anand Rajaram will both join @WalmartLabs. The two men sold their previous company, online shopping search engine startup Junglee, to Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) 13 years ago.