Meet Ben Keighran, the Australian tech entrepreneur who just sold his business to Apple for $50 million

An Australian tech entrepreneur who before the age of 30 is already a Silicon Valley veteran having sold a company to Google, has just sold his latest venture to Apple for a reported $50 million. 

The sale of app discovery service and search engine Chomp also coincides with rumours the iPhone maker is working on a full revamp of the iTunes store – app discovery is becoming a serious problem as the store holds more than 500,000 programs.

According to reports, first in TechCrunch and then the Wall Street Journal, Australian Ben Keighran has sold his company to Apple for around $50 million. The acquisition is also said to be for the technology owned by Chomp and not just for its talent, as sometimes happens in major tech companies.

Keighran and Chomp were contacted by SmartCompany this morning, but  Keighran is currently on a vacation and has so far been unable to speak about the acquisition.

Keighran started Chomp back in 2009, at which point the company announced a seed round of funding. Overall, the company has raised $US2.5 million from a number of investors.

But this is not Keighran’s first venture. After learning to code at age 10, the former Sydney-sider created a popular bulletin board system – so popular that it crashed his parents’ phone line at one point.

He travelled to California in 2006, and promptly secured $US6 million in funding for a company called Bluepulse, with the hope of designing a standard for publishing content on mobiles, including text messages and other types of communications. At the time of its launch, it was among the most popular java apps ever created.

A year later, Keighran was named by Business Week as one of America’s Top Entrepreneurs under the age of 25. Shortly afterwards, Keighran left to join social search company Aardvark, where he worked in a lead advisory role until the company was purchased by Google in a deal reportedly worth $US50 million.

According to BRW, Keighran was worth $28 million back in 2009.

He founded Chomp that same year, with the company developing a type of algorithm that allows users to search for apps more accurately. Specifically, the company allows users to search apps for what they do, rather than just names.

This explains Apple’s interest. As the number of apps on the store has exploded, it becomes harder for people to find an app that will do exactly what they want, especially when so many of them are of an inferior quality.

Over at 9to5Mac, it has been reported Keighran has now jointed Apple in the iTunes marketing team, while the company’s chief technology officer, Cathy Edwards, is now a senior iTunes engineer. It’s also been reported the 20 Chomp staff will find a new home at Apple.

This comes after 9to5Mac ran rumour suggesting Apple is looking at giving iTunes and the iTunes store a complete overhaul, focusing on making a friendlier user interface.


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