Nokia is getting into the social networking market and establishing a presence in Seattle with the acquisition of Twango, the companies announced late on Monday.
Twango, a company of ten people working out of a founder's basement, runs a free service that lets users store and share photos, video and other media online. It's different from other such media services, says co-founder Serena Glover, because it combines a wide array of media, allows anyone to access files without having to sign on and makes it easy to upload files from a variety of devices, including mobile phones.
Nokia considered about 75 companies offering similar services before deciding on Twango, said Gerard Wiener, vice president of mergers and acquisitions in Nokia's multimedia group. Twango stood out in part because of its founders. They are Microsoft alumni who are photography enthusiasts and also well versed in internet services, Wiener said. Nokia will rely on them to evolve the service as the market demands, because such social media and content services tend to require evolution to keep thriving, he said.
Twango intends to hire aggressively to support the growth of its service - with plans to move out of Glover's basement and into a new office in a Seattle suburb soon. "We are here to drive their strategy for media sharing platforms," Glover said.
Although neither Glover or Wiener could put a number on how big they expect the Seattle office to be, Wiener said it will be "as big as it needs to be." They expect to have other offices around the world in order to localize the service and launch it globally, he said.
Glover expects significant growth of the service with the backing of the well-known Nokia brand, which will help users feel secure that their content is safe, she said.
The acquisition is both an effort to drive people toward wanting Nokia phones and an attempt to create a revenue stream in the future, Wiener said. For now, Twango is free to use, but in the future Glover imagines different levels of service for which users might subscribe.
The Nokia acquisition doesn't preclude other phone customers from using Twango. Anyone with a phone that supports email can use their phone to upload content to Twango, Glover said.
Wiener hopes the service will continue to be attractive to anyone. "From our perspective, when we think about Net services, we want to have them as open as possible," said Wiener. "The Holy Grail would be to offer them to anybody who has a mobile handset that is Net enabled." Nokia has made other acquisitions in the past of services that it hopes other phone makers will continue to support, such as the Intellisync mobile email offering.
Over the past few years, Nokia has made several other acquisitions of service or content providers, including Loudeye, another Seattle startup that built digital music services, and Gate5, a German mapping software and services company. The acquisitions are part of Nokia's strategy of offering customers many different ways to connect to content, information and people, Wiener said.