Ann Arbor’s Mobiata Opens New Offices in San Francisco, Twin Cities

10/26/11Follow @XconomyDET

Ann Arbor, MI-based startup Mobiata is growing, both in size and location. The Expedia-owned company, which develops mobile apps designed to make travel go more smoothly, just opened offices in San Francisco and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area—which is where the company started out in 2008 before relocating to Ann Arbor. Founder and General Manager Ben Kazez says Mobiata is now looking to add 20 employees for open positions at all three locations.

Speaking of new hires, Mobiata just named Reed Martin as its director of design. Martin, who spent five years working at Apple, is someone Kazez hopes will in turn hire “all of his designer pals.”

“This is huge, huge news for us,” Kazez says, emphasizing that design is a company priority. “We’re in the process of this expansion to work on apps and emerging platforms for Expedia,” Kazez says.

Mobiata was acquired by Internet travel empire Expedia.com in November 2010, in a deal that was referred to as Expedia’s “most significant investment to date in addressing the mobile travel market.” In April, Mobiata launched the Expedia Hotels app, which Kazez says allows users to book a hotel room on the fly “in four taps” and covers 130,000 hotels in 20,000 cities.

“It’s kind of changed the way I travel,” Kazez says. “I used to book hotel rooms in advance.”

In addition to the Expedia hotels and Mobiata apps teams, the company has added an Expedia flights team and an incubation team. The incubation team is charged with creating a new app every two months.

“There’s no product roadmap” for the incubation team, Kazez says. “The goal is to let the team pivot as often as possible. Users love when we frequently update our apps—they feel well taken care of. If we’re launching new versions, it maintains the connection and keeps things exciting.”

Kazez adds that, despite the expansions, the Ann Arbor office remains a critical part of the operation. In fact, Mobiata recently hired a University of Michigan architecture professor to spruce up the Nickels Arcade location. Included in the renovations were the transformation of most of the walls into giant dry-erase boards so employees can brainstorm an idea anywhere they happen to be standing.

“We don’t want people to get bored working on one app for too long,” Kazez says.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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