Dec 04, 2012 (The Oregonian - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Urban Airship sees broader horizons ahead.
The Portland mobile software developer has acquired Tello, a small Palo Alto, Calif. startup currently focused on Apple's new Passbook online wallet.
The all-stock deal, Urban Airship's second acquisition, reflects the Portland company's ambition to soar into new markets in mobile technology.
"Three-and-a-half years ago, when we started this, I had no idea we were going to grow this fast," said Scott Kveton, Urban Airship's chief executive and co-founder.
Urban Airship now employs more than 100 people, double twice as many as this time last year. Kveton said he expects his work force could double again next year.
While the companies didn't disclose terms of today's deal, Urban Airship will retain all five Tello employees and their office in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Initially focused on online customer reviews, Tello shifted this year to concentrate on developer tools for Apple's Passbook. It stores tickets, coupons and gift cards in a centralized location on the iPhone.
"We saw an opportunity to enable people who are not engineers to be able to create and distribute 'passes'," said Joe Beninato, Tello's founder and CEO. He will now manage Urban Airship's "Digital Wallet" business.
Venture capital firm True Ventures has invested in both Urban Airship and Tello, and Kveton said that's how he learned about Tello's products.
Since Passbook is on all iPhones running Apple's latest mobile operating system, Urban Airship hopes Tello will help it reach shoppers -- whether or not they have a given retailer's app on their phone.
A department store, for example, might use Tello's tools to create a coupon that shoppers can store in Passbook. Urban Airship's core "push" technology could then notify customers when a coupon is about to expire.
Or Urban Airship could use location-aware technology (acquired last year when Urban Airship bought San Francisco-based SimpleGeo) to remind shoppers that they have the coupon on their phone when they're in the store.
As it diversifies its technology, Urban Airship is also expanding geographically. It has a small New York office and dispatched co-founder Michael Richardson to help open a London office, aiming to cultivate a larger customer base among large European brands.
Meanwhile, Kveton said Urban Airship isn't done shopping for deals. He said many smaller mobile startups have good technology but lack the funding to stand on their own.
"I think there's potential," Kveton said, "for us to pick off one or two of those."
-- Mike Rogoway; twitter: @rogoway; phone: 503-294-7699
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