Amazon Acquisitions and Investments
Updates added July 28, 2009
I tried to find a list of companies that Amazon.com had acquired or had invested in, and couldn’t find any lists that looked close to complete. So I decided to create my own. I hunted down a number of their investments and acquisitions, which I’ve included below. Chances are that I’ve missed some, and if you have knowledge of any that you would like to share, please let me know.
Amazon has made some large purchases over the years, but they seem to favor making investments in companies, and marketing agreements with the companies they invest in. While some of their transactions were fairly public, a few were very private, and there aren’t many details on the web about those – for instance, it’s very difficult to find a date for the transaction involving Leep Technologies, which I’ve listed at the end of the 1999 acquisitions.
I’ve included links to a number of patents which were, or are held by these companies.
(announced April 27, 1998) – one of the largest online bookstores in the United Kingdom – www.bookpages.co.uk – became Amazon’s online UK store.
(announced April 27, 1998) – operating through its ABC Bücherdienst subsidiary, was Germany’s number one online bookstore – www.telebuch.de – became Amazon’s German online store.
Sage Enterprises (PlanetAll)
(announced Aug. 4, 1998) – Sage Enterprises, running PlanetAll.com, from Cambridge, Mass., offered a Web-based address book, calendar, and reminder service. According to a June, 2000 CNet article, Amazon to shut PlanetAll, absorb features, a number of features from PlanetAll were to be integrated into Amazon’s “Friends and Favorites” section. If you have an Amazon account, you’ll see some of these on your profile page, such as a reminder service.
Crossing Paths Notification Service
Networked Personal Contact Manager
Sage Enterprise, Inc., DBA PlanetAll.com
(announced Aug. 4, 1998) – Junglee Corp. was based in Sunnyvale, California, and provided Web-based virtual database technology to help shoppers find products on the web. The deal was for 100 percent of outstanding shares in exchange for equity having an value of about $280 million. Before Google’s head of Research, Peter Norvig, became a Googler and prior to his working on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers software, he was employee number 8 at Junglee. His name is on one of the patents below.
Method and System for Integrating Transaction Mechanisms Over Multiple Internet Sites
Method and System for Integrating Transaction Mechanisms Over Multiple Internet Sites
Method and system for automatically filling forms in an integrated network based transaction environment
Method and Apparatus for Structuring the Querying and Interpretation of Semistructured Information
Method for Data Gathering Around Forms and Search Barriers
(February 1999) – Amazon.com buys a stake in Drugstore.com. I’m seeing conflicting reports of the percentage that Amazon purchased.
Diagnosis and Interprestation Methods and Apparatus for a Personal Nutrition Program
Techniques for Improved Searching of Electronically Stored Information
Method and Apparatus for Automatic Product Listing
Techniques for Phonetic Searching
Electronic Commerce Session Management
Method and Apparatus for Improving On-line Purchasing
(February 1999) – acquisition of a minority interest in Geoworks, which works in wireless communications – Owner of a number of patents related to wireless phones.
(Announced on March 29, 1999) – purchased a 54 percent stake, paid for in cash and stock.
(April 1999 ) – live-event internet auctions
Distributed Live Auction
e-Niche Incorporated – Exchange.com, Bibliofind.com, and Musicfile.com
(The Merger Agreement and Plan shows a date of April 24, 1999) – for $200 million in mostly stock, the company developed Internet marketplaces at exchange.com, and operated a rare and collectibles online bookstore at Bibiliofind, and a music site at Musicfile.com.
(Announced April 26, 1999) – The press release from Amazon announcing this acquisition focused primarily upon the acquisition of Exchange.com. In the press release, we are told that the acquisitions of Alexa.com, Accept.com, and Exchange.com should be closed by June 30, 1999, and that they were “three separate substantially all-stock transactions totaling approximately $645 million.”
In Amazon makes Net triple play, the internet Archive is mentioned as one of the attractive aspects of what Alexa had to offer. The article provides the following quote:
“Alexa has a pretty interesting database with really good information about what people are doing on the Web and also relationships with close to a million users and potential relationships with a larger number,” said Barry Parr, analyst with IDC. “The immediate application by Amazon isn’t obvious, but it’s an interesting group of folks in an interesting position in the marketplace.”
There are a number of patent filings associated with Alexa Internet. Some of these were filed before the acquisition date, while others were developed afterwards.
Automatically generate and displaying metadata as supplemental information concurrently with the web page, there being no link between web page and metadata
Accept.com Financial Services Corporation
(The Merger Agreement and Plan shows a date of April 25, 1999) – Accept.com, which specializes in person-to-person and consumer-to-business transactions.
(Announced on May 18, 1999) – www.homegrocer.com – Amazon.com’s $42.5 million in cash and stock bought a 35 percent stake in the online grocer, which served customers in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. For an idea of what the site and its service was like, see: Buying Peaches, E-Commerce Style
(Announced July 14, 1999) – Offered 100-percent closeout merchandise in all sports categories, which meant that their prices on brand-name sporting goods were at prices from 20 to 90 percent off retail. Deal was for approximately 49 percent of Gear.com’s outstanding shares as of July 1, 1999. The company was purchased by Overstock.com in 2000.
(Announced on Oct. 4, 1999) – Makes software to connect wireless devices to the Internet, for about $23 million in stock.
Universal Protocol for Enabling a Device to Discover and Untilize the Services of Another Device
Hidden Agent Transfer Protocol
(Founded in 1996, sold to Amazon in 1999) – the company created applications for web sites from online chats to web based databases. Nice interview with one of the founders, Eric Best.
(Amazon.com has a minority interest (20 percent as of November 1999) in Della.com, which offers gift registry, expert advice, and personalized gift suggestions. Other investors in Della.com include Tiffany & Co., Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, and other retailers. In April, 2000, the company merged with WeddingChannel.com, which is an online wedding planning and bridal registry resource, under the name WeddingChannel.com.
(December 1999) – Web retailer of luxury products. Amazon invested $10 million for a 16.6 percent ownership in Ashford.com outstanding common stock, with contract covering the holiday seasons in 1999 and 2000, for Ashford to offer Amazon’s customers selections from its product line.
Leep Technology Inc.
(Founded in 1995, Acquired by Amazon in 1999) – Developer of on-line database query tools and Customer Relationship Management software. Sold to Amazon.com. It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact date.
Method and Apparatus for Producing Sequenced Queries
Leep Technology, Inc.
System and method for selecting rows from dimensional databases
Leep Technology, Inc.
Method and Apparatus for Changing Temporal Database
Leep Technology, Inc.
(Announced on January 21, 2000) – A 5 percent stake in online car retailer Greenlight.com. The exact terms weren’t disclosed, but a promotional agreement within the investment has Greenlight paying Amazon $82.5 million over five years for marketing efforts and promotions, and Amazon could option to increase their stake in Greenlight to 30 percent within the five years after the agreement.
Greg Manning Auctions, Inc.
(Announced Feb. 3, 2000) – A minority investment in GMAI, for $5 million of GMAI’s stock. The company focus was on a wide range of collectibles, and became known as the Escala Group (link no longer available). Active in the US, Europe, and China at the time of the investment.
(Announced on Feb. 18, 2000) – A minority investment in this provider of internationalization technology for Internet companies and Web software developers.
(Announced on March 20, 2000) – Amazon invested $60 million for a minority stake this company which offered free delivery, within an hour, of things like rental DVDs and Starbucks coffee. Great overview at Anatomy of a Dot-Com from an employee of the company. Also interesting is Kozmo Kills the Messenger. Great Google Answer about Kozmo, what they delivered, and what their most popular delivery items were.
(Announced on April 18, 2000) – A minority investment of $ 30 Million, in this San Francisco and Napa based company, which had set up a system involving more than 550 wineries, importers and suppliers and 250 wholesalers in 45 states (representing about 85 percent of the U.S. population).
(Announced on Jan. 31, 2000) – An investment in the range of millions of dollars, for 5 percent of this spoken audio service, which featured content from newspapers and magazines, and books on audio. For promoting audio.com, Amazon would receive $ 30 Million over three years.
(Announced Nov 9, 2001) – A $ 5 Million investment, and a commercial agreement with this group of catalog merchants.
(Announced in December 2001) – Bankrupt electronics online retailer was purchased for $ 6.1 Million.
(December 2001) – OurHouse.com was intended to be the online partner for Ace Hardware. Employee number 17, Tom Tresser, was the marketing director for the business, and
has (had) a page about OurHouse and some of the promotions and efforts that made it a successful site.
(December, 2002) – CD Now was acquired by Bertelsmannin 2000, and their operation was merged with the now defunct BMG Direct Record Club. Amazon and Bertelsmann agreed to a long term deal which would have Amazon handle things such as “fulfillment, inventory, content and customer service” for CDNow’s site in early December of 2002. The CD Now website reflected the change by the end of 2002.
(Announced on Aug. 19, 2004) – Web retailer in China, from the British Virgin Islands, purchased for $75 Million ($72 million in cash and the assumption of employee stock options). The largest online retailers of books, music and videos in China at the time.
(Announced on April 4, 2005) – Inventory-free on-demand book printing and fulfillment from Charleston, South Carolina.
(April 2005) – A French company that specialized in ebooks for mobile devices, with both reader and server software.
(June 2005) – Enables films to be downloaded and burned on DVDs.
(Announced on Feb 27, 2006) – Retailer of apparel, shoes and accessories for women. The site has nothing on it to indicate that it is now owned by Amazon, but there is a link from Amazon’s Apparel & Accessories Store (www.amazon.com/apparel) to the site.
(invested in December 2006) – Wikia supports development of open source software which is used to Wikipedia and Wikia, and many thousands of other wiki sites.
Brilliance Audio, Inc.
(Acquired May 23, 2007) – If you visit the web site of Brilliance Audio, you would be hardpressed to uncover their relationship with Amazon.com. The company was the largest independent publisher of audiobooks in the United States at the time of the acquisition.
(Investment announced on August 6, 2007) – The terms of this Series A financing deal aren’t disclosed in the press release from Amie Street, but this social networking digital music store has been growing quickly, and an October 2008 Press release describes significant growth of catalogue and customers and employees. It also tells us that the site is “raising its Series B round of financing with strong participation from existing investors.”
(Announced January 31, 2008 ) – The press release tells us that Audible is the “leading online provider of premium digital spoken word audio content, specializing in digital audio editions of books, newspapers and magazines, television and radio programs and original programming.”
Without A Box, Inc.
(Acquired January 17, 2008) – The acquisition was by the Internet Movie Database, as a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Without A Box is a media company that promotes independent films to audiences, and to film festivals.
(Investment announced April 2, 2008) – Amazon.com became the largest shareholder of stock for Lovefilm.com in exchange for Amazon Europe’s DVD rental business in the United Kingdom and Germany, as well as a cash investment. The agreement also included a multi-year deal for Amazon Europe to promote Lovefilm.com’s services to customers in the UK and Germany.
(Investment in May, 2008) – Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos gave a presentation in April of 2008 at Y Combinator’s Startup School, which featured Animoto video creation technology, run on Amazon’s cloud computing platform. A month later, Amazon is one of a number of investors in the company.
Box Office Mojo
(Acquired July 2008) – The strength of Box Office Mojo has been the box office tracking data that it has been able to collect and share online. The acquisition was made by the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), rather than directly by Amazon.com. The site also includes analysis, reviews, and interviews, and continues to operate independently of IMDB and Amazon.com, though its likely that the data collected by Box Office Mojo about box office numbers, and film and TV credits is being shared.
(Invested in August 2008) – This company makes software to move some of their computing infrastructure onto the internet, accessible via “cloud computing.”
As many of you may already know, Amazon has been a long supporter of Shelfari. They’ve worked closely with us as we introduced readers, like you, to our global community of book lovers. They’ve been there each step of the way as we brought forth new features, like the cool Facebook application and our virtual bookshelf. And now Shelfari and Amazon will work hand in hand to continue to grow our dynamic community and create innovative new tools around the books you love.
Reflexive Entertainment Inc.
(Acquired October 20, 2008) – The acquisition added significantly to the games that Amazon offers, and the Reflexive website appears to run as a standalone business with no sign that it is owned by Amazon except for CEO Lars Brubaker’s announcement of the acquisition.
LibraryThing (40 %)
(Acquistion completed December 1, 2008) – Abe Books is an online marketplace for millions of mostly used, out of print, and rare books, which are listed by thousands of independent booksellers from around the world. Again, this is another acquired company that continues to be a stand-alone operation after being purchased.
AbeBooks made a number of acquisitions on its own before being purchased by Amazon.com, including Justbooks.de in October of 2001, and IberLibro.com in October 2004. AbeBooks acquired BookFinder.com in November of 2005, a book inventory and order management company named FillZ in February of 2006, a 40 percent stake in LibraryThing in May of 2006, created a site named Gojaba.com in February of 2008, and acquired Chrislands in April of 2008.
(Seed capital investment in April, 2009) – The Chairman of Booktour is author and journalist Chris Anderson, who is the editor in chief of Wired Magazine, and the writer of the book The Long Tail. The company lets authors create profile pages where they can communicate with fans, and provide a schedule of events they may be participating in.
Talk Market Inc
(Investment on June 9, 2009) – A minority stake in Talk Market, which allows sellers of unique products to upload videos about what they offer, and add graphics and soundtracks to those videos. In essence, this is an online shopping network.
(Acquisition on June 16, 2009) – Snaptell was acquired by Amazon.com subsidiary A9. The company makes mobile image recognition marketing applications and technology, and has been one of the most popular applciations for iPhones and Android phones.
(Acquired July 22, 2009) – The email that Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh sent out to his employees to inform them of the acquisition of Zappos by Amazon.com provides a lot of insight into why Amazon purchased this popular ecommerce company. He tells them:
We plan to continue to run Zappos the way we have always run Zappos — continuing to do what we believe is best for our brand, our culture, and our business. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are switching out our current shareholders and board of directors for a new one, even though the technical legal structure may be different.
We think that now is the right time to join forces with Amazon because there is a huge opportunity to leverage each other’s strengths and move even faster towards our long term vision. For Zappos, our vision remains the same: delivering happiness to customers, employees, and vendors. We just want to get there faster.