Apple has acquired Australian start-up Chomp for around $US50 million but is remaining tight-lipped over what it plans to do with the Chomp app, which is used to search the App Store.
Chomp’s software allows people to search through downloadable applications available for Apple’s iPad and iPhone, as well as gadgets running Google’s Android operating system.
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Users can enter queries such as “tip calculator” or “kids’ games” to get different options of apps that fit those descriptions.
Founded by Ben Keighran and Cathy Edwards, Chomp’s investors include BlueRun Ventures, SV Angel founder Ron Conway, Aydin Senkut, David Lee and Brian Pokorny.
Chomp counts Ashton Kutcher as one of its advisors, and is also a partner with Verizon Wireless, which uses Chomp’s search technology in its app store.
Apple has confirmed its acquisition of Chomp, but has refused to go into detail.
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” the company said in a statement.
Boosted by the success of the iPhone and iPad, Apple has accumulated $US97.6 billion in cash and investments on its balance sheet.
While the company hasn’t made any multibillion dollar deals, Apple executives said earlier this year that acquisitions are among the options it is currently considering.
With past acquisitions of companies, such as the LaLa music store, Apple has shut down the service and integrated the technology or engineers into its own operations.
Keighran and Chomp were contacted by StartupSmart, but Keighran is currently on holiday and has so far been unable to speak about the acquisition.
However, Chomp has raised just over $US2.5 million over two rounds of funding and has 20 employees, all of whom are reportedly heading to Apple.
Keighran moved from Sydney to San Francisco in 2007 where he raised $US6.5 million for his mobile social networking company Bluepulse.
Then in 2009, Keighran co-founded Chomp with Edwards, developing the Chomp application for Apple’s iPhone in 2010.
In September last year, the company introduced a private beta of its advertising program, Chomp Search Ads, which allows advertisers to bid on app search keywords.
Chomp says its app uses a “proprietary algorithm [that] learns the functions and topic of apps,” which helps users search for apps based on their functionality, not just their names.
The app also lists free apps of the day and trending apps, and offers app-browsing by unique categories that don’t exist within the App Store’s own taxonomy.
Chomp’s app also offers the ability to follow friends from Facebook and Twitter to see the apps that they review.
The app shows screenshots and descriptions straight from the App Store, and directs users to the App Store when they’re ready to purchase or download something.