Breaking: Germany's Plazes Acquired By Nokia

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Berlin, Germany based Plazes, a location based social network (and one of the first startups we ever wrote about here on TechCrunch, back in 2005), has been acquired by Finland-based Nokia, the companies are announcing today. The price is not being disclosed.

We most recently wrote about Plazes new iPhone application in May 2008, which will take advantage of the cutting edge location technologies available on the phone (cell triangulation and GPS). The company has raised a total of €3.7 million in venture financing over two round, although the last round was closed in February 2007.

This is the second “mobile social network” in Europe to be acquired in as many months – Danish startup ZYB was acquired by Vodafone in May for €31.5 million.

Co-founder Felix Petersen told me in a hastily scheduled phone call that the company will maintain its Berlin office and all thirteen employees. The Plazes product will become Nokia’s Services & Software unit.

In 2006 Nokia acquired Berlin based Gate5 for a rumored $250 million and turned the product into Nokia Maps, which is deployed in 300 markets. Petersen says the success of that acquisition gave Plazes a lot of comfort in working with Nokia.

As a funny aside, a year ago Petersen was busted by his own product as he avoided one conference to attend another.

Update: by Mike Butcher, TechCrunch UK: My industry sources are telling me that this was a smart acquisition for Nokia, which needed to have a consumer based offering outside the rigid maps infrastructure they have, since the purchase last year of Navteq.

There is also a local story here. The Plazes office is in Berlin, physically close to the Gate 5 people, and we know from good authority that Gate 5 people are highly respected on the Berlin scene. It’s therefore likely that they had a lot to do with the acquisition thinking inside Nokia as they know the guys from Plazes.

From what we know about Nokia, the purchase of Plazes fits in with their strategy in terms of context and location and what to do with it. Put together the Ad system they have, and they control a strong section of the mobile ecosystem from ad generation, delivery through branded channels, with good profile information about the user, especially since most new handsets from Nokia now have GPS built in.

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