Wal-Mart baffled analysts by snapping up Kosmix, a tiny Silicon Valley startup, last year -- but the investment has already started paying dividends. The team is spearheading the retail giant's e-commerce and mobile development-efforts, coming up with innovative concepts such as Shopycat, a Facebook application that recommends gifts, and "Get On The Shelf," an online contest to help brands win shelf-space. "We've been given a lot of flexibility ... and been empowered," says co-founder Anand Rajaraman.

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