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Twitter acqui-hires creative agency Ueno to help design new products

Sarah Perez
·3-min read

Twitter this morning announced it's bringing the full-service creative agency Ueno in-house to work alongside Twitter's own design and research teams. The move, an acqui-hire of sorts, is one where Twitter is essentially buying the agency with which it already had a close working relationship, as Ueno had previously partnered with Twitter on various design and product experiences in the past.

The agency itself was founded by Haraldur Thorleifsson in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2014. Today, it has dozens of employees working in Reykjavik, San Francisco, New York and LA.

Over the years, Ueno has worked on a number of projects for large brands and startups alike, including Google, Facebook, Reuters, Uber, ESPN, Sotheby's, Walmart, Visa, NYT, Apple, Slack and others. Startups that contracted the agency include Zero, Checkout.com, Superhuman, Tagomi, Strava, Cruise, Credit Karma, Boosted and many more. (Ueno also worked on Clubhouse per its website, but not the same Clubhouse that's competing with Twitter Spaces.)

Also among its clients were those that had other Twitter ties: Medium and Jelly. The former is the publishing platform from Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, and the latter was a Q&A app created by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, which later sold to Pinterest.

Twitter Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis announced the news of Ueno's joining on Twitter this morning, saying Ueno has a "highly experienced and innovative team of designers, strategists, and producers."

He also said the team will help Twitter to "accelerate the quality and execution of Twitter's product experiences."

Ueno's founder, meanwhile, also announced the news, then teased Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about the edit button.

Twitter tells TechCrunch that Ueno will wind down its agency and will complete its existing projects for other clients over the weeks ahead.

The company also said it will be meeting with Ueno's 50 global employees over the weeks ahead to learn more about their professional backgrounds and goals -- essentially, to determine if they can fit inside Twitter's design and research orgs. That means Twitter may or may not end up hiring all 50.

Twitter isn't publicly sharing what projects it has in mind for Ueno, but we understand the Ueno staff will end up embedded across key teams within the design and research organizations so they can work on top of product initiatives, including "conversational tools" and other upcoming features. Reading between the lines, this seems to indicate that Twitter Spaces, the company's new audio-based conversations tool, will benefit from the acqui-hire.

The company also noted it will continue to be on the lookout for other talent to help it accelerate its work in a similar way, so this may not be the last acqui-hire deal to come.

The news of Ueno's acqui-hire follows that of Twitter's acquisition of social podcasting app Breaker, announced just this week, also with the goal of staffing up on Twitter's new audio-based networking project and Clubhouse rival (the audio app), Twitter Spaces.

Deal terms were not shared.