Today I came across this Silicon Florist article about the closing of the Walmart office in Portland. It’s definitely the end of an era.

After reading it, I couldn’t help but clarify a few things about the origin story 😬

Quoting from the article,

For a town that has been less than welcoming to Walmart, it may be a bit of head-scratcher how they wound up with a regional technology office here. The answer, like so many other regional offices in town, is through acquisition.

Acquisition, yes, but not the one of Small Society as the article alludes.

In April 2011, Walmart Labs acquired Set Direction which had been building the Walmart iOS app, and more. At the time Set Direction had one employee WFH in Portland. Next month I joined the team.

A short while later we hired a third person and rented a conference room at Collective Agency’s first location in NW Portland. When our team expanded to five people over a couple more months, we moved into the first proper Walmart Labs office at One Main Place in November 2011. During that time we built and released the first few versions of the native iOS SDK based Walmart app.

Quoting again from the article,

After being acquired in 2012, Small Society took on the moniker of Walmart Labs, serving as a regional technology office for the retail giant and continued to be a presence — albeit a much quieter presence — within the local startup community, even taking up residence in coworking spaces around town.

Walmart Labs existed in Portland for the better part of a year before the Small Society acquisition in January 2012. And while Walmart Labs worked out of a coworking space for a few months, Small Society (as part of Walmart Labs) never did. After the acquisition they continued to operate from their existing office.

For eight months Walmart Labs was split across two offices until we all moved into the space above the erstwhile Rock Bottom Brewery (2nd and Morrison) in September 2012.

Edited to clarify: During recent years Walmart Labs did move into a coworking space but that was long after all the original people had moved on.