Google Ventures Likes Local Play
Google continues its foray into the world of local Internet marketing and services with an investment by Google Ventures into a local deal site called Signpost (originally named Postabon).
At this point it’s not a shock to watch Google get its hand deeper and deeper into the local cookie jar. What is interesting is how they are doing it which is in just about every facet of the company. Of course, as the world gets more mobile with its Internet use that means more mobile search so it’s not terribly difficult to connect those dots now is it?
No, it’s not what you’re thinking — Google Ventures didn’t just invest in a Groupon clone. But the search giant’s VC arm is taking a stake in a local deals startup called Signpost which looks to help you find the best deals in your neighborhood . The size of the Google Ventures investment isn’t being disclosed, but it’s a follow-on to a $1 million seed round Signpost raised earlier this year from Spark Capital. Signpost has been known as Postabon up until now — in conjunction with the announcement, the startup is getting a new name and is relaunching with support for more cities.
Initially I though it sure sounded like a Groupon clone but an explanation of the service clears that up
At a high level Signpost is pretty straightforward: log onto the site, and you’ll find a listing of deals at restaurants, retailers, and other merchants located in your city (you can zoom in if you want to restrict your search to within a few-blocks). And unlike sites like Groupon, there are dozens or even hundreds of deals visible on Signpost at once, ranging from happy hour at your local bar to a 40% discount at a nearby spa this weekend.
What sets the site apart for now (although it is not the only player in the space) is that the deals are given to the site by customers of businesses. What’s their incentive? Being a good neighbor I suppose since there isn’t any system to truly reward someone for putting a deal they discovered up on the site (other than a foursquare-esque hollow victory by offering ‘karmic points’ which can be exchanged for nothing and is silly but hey).
The site is limited to major metros with New York City having over 12,000 deals listed since it has been the only metro until now. New cities that are coming on board today are San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.
The great thing about these kinds of offerings are the realization of how local is being redefined. Sure it’s nice to have these deals be put out for the true locals that live in neighborhoods and frequent these businesses. What’s better about these large urban centers are the number of what I call ‘temporary locals’ that can now know this information.
What’s a ‘temporary local’? It’s that transient person whether it’s a tourist, a business traveler or someone from another part of the city who finds themselves in a certain area and needs something. They may not live there but they are now a local person to those businesses albeit a temporary one. Of course, whether you live in the area or not, your money spends the same and the word of mouth generated by the ‘local temp’, if you will, could create more traffic from their friends and acquaintances that find themselves in that area for any reason.
So Google continues to give signals that the local and mobile thing is finally getting to be real. Why? Because there is money being poured into it, which means there is money to be taken out of it in the form of revenue.
If Google smells significant revenue there must be some blood in the water so this could turn into a feeding frenzy. Of course, it could die a terrible ‘unrealized Internet fad’ death as well but that’s what keeps this fun right?