Nokia snaps up Redmond's Twango
Seattle Times technology reporter
TwangoA site where users can store digital content, including photos, videos, music and other documents
Founders: Jim Laurel, Mike Laurel, Philip Carmichael, Randy Kerr and Serena Glover
Site launch: A beta of Twango.com was launched in April 2006 and the public site launched in October.
Nokia, the world's largest cellphone maker, is buying a Redmond company that it found in a basement.
The Espoo, Finland-based giant said Monday it is acquiring Twango, a media-sharing service that has 10 employees and operates in one of its founders' home.
Financial details were not disclosed, but Nokia said it will retain all Twango employees, including its five founders, with plans to add five engineers who were flying in from Helsinki as early as this week.
The two companies said they want to move as quickly as possible to ramp up Twango service, so that it can support hundreds of thousands of users on PCs and cellphones.
Nokia said it is also using the deal as a way to gain expertise in Internet services by building a significant presence in Seattle.
About a year ago, Nokia bought Seattle-based Loudeye, a digital audio company, for $60 million in cash. By the time that deal was completed, however, most of Loudeye's employees were based in Europe.
Gerard Wiener, Nokia's vice president of mergers and acquisitions for multimedia, said his company was attracted to Twango's management, technology and location.
"They are where they are today as a direct result of them being in Seattle," he said. "It makes sense to make the acquisition in the Seattle area and use it going forward to tap in to the great talent there."
Twango operates a Web site that allows users to upload digital content, including photos, videos, documents and music, for storage or sharing.
The site, similar to the photo-sharing site Flickr and the video-sharing YouTube, bills itself as easy to use.
Users can automatically upload photos or videos created on their mobile phones by e-mailing the content to a designated address, a simpler step than processes offered by other Web sites or wireless carriers today.
Twango co-founder Serena Glover said Nokia shares Twango's vision of the future of multimedia development. As cellphones become more like handheld computers, they will play an increasingly important role.
"We had a vision we call 'any-ness,' which means having seamless, universal access to your personal stuff from anywhere, anytime and from any device and being able to share or consume it however you want," said Glover, who will become Nokia's director of service operations.
Twango was founded in 2004 by five former Microsoft employees who saw an emerging opportunity as people created digital content with phones and other devices.
They reasoned that people would want to store the content online so that they could share it with family and friends and have access to it from any computer.
The company, which launched the Twango.com site officially in October, was financially supported by the founders and headquartered in Glover's home to save money.
Glover said the company had been considering raising outside capital to grow the company when Nokia expressed interest.
Glover said selling to Nokia would not only provide capital to expand but also give the Twango site credibility. She said Nokia also gives Twango a distribution network.
In 2006, Nokia sold 347 million mobile devices worldwide.
"They bring resources. If you are really going to create a robust secure platform to share media, anytime, anywhere, it requires a lot of resources," Glover said. "To scale it up to tens of hundreds of million people worldwide, it requires a lot of resources."
Next year, Twango's technology will be integrated into some of Nokia's phones.
To meet that goal, Glover said, Twango plans to move into a Bellevue office this week to help accommodate the five Nokia employees from Finland and five new positions to be filled soon — making a total of 20 employees.
"We are so happy. We are thrilled on so many levels," Glover said.
"It's really a good deal for us financially and it allows us to complete our vision with Nokia — a company that really gets it."
She added: "We'd also love to get our house back."
Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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