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Posted on Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 2:02 p.m.

Expedia acquires Ann Arbor mobile apps firm Mobiata

By Nathan Bomey

(Editor's note: This story has been updated several times with additional information.)

Expedia is acquiring Ann Arbor-based mobile apps firm Mobiata, and the travel website said it plans to maintain the startup's Ann Arbor headquarters, officials announced this afternoon.

Details of the transaction were not released.

Expedia described the acquisition as its "most significant investment to date in addressing the mobile travel market."

Mobiata created the popular FlightTrack application for multiple digital devices and also develops mobile apps for travel companies.

The company, which recently opened an office in the second floor of Ann Arbor shopping corridor Nickels Arcade after moving to Ann Arbor from Minnesota in early 2009, is reportedly approaching $2 million in revenue for 2010.

Mobiata, founded by former Apple Inc. intern Ben Kazez, has enjoyed runaway success for its travel applications for Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch and phones powered by Google's Android operating system.

Kazez, in an e-mailed statement, said Mobiata would continue to grow in Ann Arbor.

"Staying in Ann Arbor isn't just important to me personally -- it's part of the strategy," he said. "There is some value in being geographically separate, and Expedia sees this. Being here means we'll keep our amazing pace of innovation going and stay nimble, while never losing our razor-sharp focus on designing for mobile first."

The company's FlightTrack application -- which New York Times columnist David Pogue called "incredible" today -- gives frequent travelers the ability to keep tabs on their itineraries, gate changes and flight details.

But Mobiata has also diversified its revenue base by striking partnerships with other travel companies like and The firm has benefited from free advertising in Apple's TV commercials and print advertisements -- and Apple CEO Steve Jobs even praised Mobiata's FlightTrack application in a recent appearance.

Bellevue, Wash.-based Expedia indicated that it believes Mobiata can help it navigate the dynamic mobile sales market emerging in the travel industry.


Mobiata founder Ben Kazez

Photo courtesy of Mobiata

Expedia (NASDAQ: EXPE) has some 7,960 employees and $3.24 billion in annual revenue, according to Yahoo! Finance.

The firm operates travel sales site, review site, booking site and other operations.

"With the pace at which mobile traffic to Expedia sites is exploding, we wanted the right team to help us address the sizable opportunity swiftly and successfully," said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia, in a statement. "There's simply no better company out there doing mobile travel apps with the same level of design sensibility and utility as Mobiata."

Mobiata has about a dozen employees, though some are located at sites elsewhere in the country, including Austin, Texas and Silicon Valley.

Kazez moved the company to Ann Arbor specifically to take advantage of the software talent in the area and the quality of life. He has said previously, though, that he would consider moving the company again if the right opportunity presents itself.

Mobiata has several apps, including itinerary manager TripDeck and booking app HotelPal. The firm also recently introduced an app called FlightBoard, which allows travelers to instantly view the flight boards at 4,000 airports and 1,400 airlines throughout the world.


A screen cap of Mobiata's FlightBoard application.

Photo courtesy of Mobiata

Expedia said that 4 percent of its traffic comes from mobile sites and that bookings made from mobile devices are up five-fold over 2009.

"We are thrilled to be joining the biggest and best online travel company while maintaining the creative passion for mobile travel apps that makes Mobiata unique," Kazez said in a statement. "Together with Expedia, we believe we can continue to revolutionize the way people plan, book, and manage travel - from anywhere on any device."

Mobiata has grown without venture capital investment but with the help of local economic development efforts. The firm had brief stays in the University of Michigan's student-led business incubator TechArb and the TechBrewery, an incubator for entrepreneurs on Jones Drive.

Expedia's acquisition of Mobiata also comes as a battle is brewing over access to travel data after Google announced its intent to acquire ITA Software, which provides data on airfares.

Expedia is part of a group called, which also includes and Travelocity, that is asking the federal government to block the ITA Software acquisition.

Mobiata has said that it does not use data from ITA Software.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Sat, Nov 20, 2010 : 1:30 a.m.

Zattoo is very much NOT history - over 5 million subscribers in Europe, and the first real, live TV on iPhone and iPad, filling the "niche" of folks who don't want to pay for outsized cable TV packages stuck in their living room. It will also soon be a better Hulu than Hulu, at least in Europe - recording ALL televised content for time-shifted viewing by any subscriber on nearly any device. And it's still hiring engineers in Ann Arbor. Zattoo has had an amazing history, in a competitive market fraught with serious legal risk (licensing content from major broadcasters who would just as soon crush you) and technical disruption (the bottoming-out of the global CDN market). When Warner-Universal sued the company after reaching 1 million users in Germany, it was not because the service wasn't "user-friendly" or failed to "fill an important niche". Millions of viewers watched the EURO soccer tournaments, Olympics, and other major media events live on Zattoo. I couldn't be more proud of the startup hackers at Zattoo who stuck it out to survive the Internet video wars, or went on to found or join other successful startups such as Mobiata. They have all had the guts to try.


Fri, Nov 19, 2010 : 9:36 a.m.

Congrats on hitting the big time Mobiata! Well deserved! Your applications are user-friendly and fill an important niche. Unlike Zattoo which is why they're history.

Marvin Face

Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 6:58 p.m.

I use FlightTracker as well as FlightBoard for both my iPhone and iPad and can attest to the awesomeness of the apps as I travel. They work even better when used together. I'm concerned about Expedia owning Mobiata because they have a reputation for drowning users with advertising (try to use TripAdvisor sometime) and would hate to see adds all over these nice apps.

Nathan Bomey

Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 5:59 p.m.

I just updated the story with a statement released to by Ben Kazez. I asked about the company's commitment to Ann Arbor. Here's what he said: "Staying in Ann Arbor isn't just important to me personally -- it's part of the strategy. There is some value in being geographically separate and Expedia sees this. Being here means will keep our amazing pace of innovation going and stay nimble, while never losing our razor-sharp focus on designing for mobile first."


Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 5:07 p.m.

Mobiata is already largely distributed. I sent Jason Bornhorst to Ben after he graduated, trying to keep him in Ann Arbor. He joined Mobiata and moved to Austin anyway. I lost Marshall Weir after Zattoo to Cambridge, but was glad to have him at least sort of connected to Ann Arbor working remote for Mobiata. The other Arbor Networks / Barracuda Networks / Zattoo alum at Mobiata will all stay. They've all had a wild ride, and a taste of success. They *should* (ahem) all be thinking about the next startup they'll do... Young founders and early exits are a good thing. Ben's next one will be bigger and better. He knows he can build a team here, and how to do it. It almost makes up for us losing Occipital to Boulder (along with other Zattoo/Barracuda alum). Occipital only sold their app to eBay, though, and chose to keep going. One day, though, Jeff and Vikas will be back (I keep telling myself... never should have sent them to Boulder). Ben hustled and got it done. Good for him, and the team that prevailed. Next time you see a company founded by ex-Mobiata, Arbor, Zattoo, Barracuda, etc. talent, you'll know what you're dealing with, and what they've been through. No matter where they are.

Bob Martel

Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 4:31 p.m.

Ok, I'm taking bets on how long before this company moves out of state.

Jay Thomas

Thu, Nov 18, 2010 : 2:23 p.m.

Well, it was nice knowing you Mobiata...