Ann Arbor’s Mobiata, After Expedia Takeover, Seeks to Put Travel Info on Your Handheld

1/6/11Follow @xconomy

Ann Arbor-based Mobiata got a good second birthday present, even if it was a day late. The mobile app developer was acquired by Internet travel empire Expedia.com in November, in a deal that was referred to as Expedia’s “most significant investment to date in addressing the mobile travel market.” The acquisition came one day after the company officially turned two years old.

Now, almost two months after the big deal, Mobiata is working hard to roll out some apps for Bellevue, WA-based Expedia, who said at the time of acquisition that 4 percent of its traffic comes from mobile phones. But Mobiata won’t lose its own identity in the process, founder and general manager Ben Kazez says.

“The plan is to continue all the apps that we have going right now with the addition of a bunch of new apps for Expedia,” he says. Mobiata, which got started in Minnesota and relocated to Ann Arbor in 2009, is the maker of FlightTrack, one of the top 5 travel apps in Apple’s iTunes App Store. Mobiata’s other titles include HotelPal, for booking hotels, mobile itinerary manager TripDeck, and FlightBoard, which can turn a mobile phone into a departure and arrival board for a given airport.

Mobiata has a bit of the best of both worlds when it comes to life after the acquisition. It operates as wholly owned subsidiary of Expedia, while maintaining its own unique branding and remaining in Ann Arbor. Kazez says the arrangement—which was mutually decided between the two parties—enables Mobiata to maintain the small, innovative feel of a startup environment while gaining access to the resources and clout that a giant Internet media company like Expedia enjoys.

“Expedia wants us to keep innovating as fast as possible in mobile apps; it’s the major reason that they bought us,” he says. He didn’t say much about how exactly Expedia’s products will translate into the mobile world, other than to say we can expect to see more from them on that in the coming months. And Mobiata will also be updating its existing seven-app inventory and introducing new applications, Kazez says.

The Mobiata team is up to 17 people, four of whom were just added this week, Kazez says. And that’s not it for hiring in the coming months. He’s continuously looking at the University of Michigan’s engineering talent—which was the main attraction in setting up shop in Ann Arbor, he says.

“I’m most excited about designing and creating apps at a really fast pace,” Kazez says. “It’s what we’re all about.”

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