The download: Calif. firm acquires two local Twitter-centric companies

By Steven Overly
Monday, January 31, 2011

A Pasadena, Calif., technology firm that builds and buys Web and smartphone applications for Twitter has snatched two D.C.-area developers in the last week as part of its strategy to amass many of the companies that influence the way people connect with and use the microblogging network.

One of the two, McLean-based Mixx, has created a way for Twitter's users to comb the social network for tweets on designated topics that lack hashtags. The five-person company began in 2007 as its own social network, but later abandoned that effort to focus on cutting through what founder Chris McGill calls the network's "noise."

"We basically believed that that future was about social media and that social media was incredibly powerful, but it was also noisy and sloppy and messy," McGill said. So the company focused on "our engine, which was good at figuring out what content was buzzing and extracting it."

UberMedia, the acquiring company, said that technology perfectly suits its aspirations to comb Twitter's never-ending stream of updates for content that falls into particular categories, such as fashion or basketball. Users can then access those channels and advertisers can target ads to their interests.

"Our desire is to create both more interesting opportunities for users, more interesting experiences for users than just straight Twitter because a lot of people find it very confusing," said Steve Chadima, the company's chief marketing officer.

UberMedia, which was previously called PostUp and TweetUp, also announced in the past week its acquisition of UberTwitter in Ashburn, which built a widely used application to access Twitter from BlackBerry devices.

The app began as a hobby for founder Paul McDonald, who began work on it while employed full time for a government contractor. Friends prodded him to make it public.

In the first day it was downloaded 10,000 times. Today about 1.1 million people use the app to tweet every day, McDonald said, and it generates about $1 million in revenue annually. He no longer works for the government contractor.

"It's been a great ride," McDonald said. "You look at a guy who started as a hobby and built up an entire business."

The terms of both deals were not disclosed, but Chadima said the developers will remain in the D.C. area and continue to hone their creations under the UberMedia brand.

"When you buy small companies like that, the asset is the people, generally," Chadima said. "They'll each take on slightly different roles, but we're very much enjoying having them part of the company."

Microsoft office (space)

Software behemoth Microsoft will double its office space in the District come March when it sets up shop in about 20,000 square feet of 901 K St. NW. The office will house about 26 members of the Redmond, Wash.-based company's government affairs staff and act as a revolving door for those with temporary business in the District.

A spokesman said the company will also open an "innovation center," where lawmakers and other Washington notables can engage hands-on with Microsoft's newest products. Other highlights include touch displays, Xbox game consoles and a living room with Kinect, the controller-free gaming system that detects users' motion.

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