GoDaddy Acquires Local Business Data Provider Locu

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GoDaddy is acquiring San Francisco-based local business data provider Locu, the companies are announcing today. The startup, founded at MIT in 2011, is currently being used by over 30,000 businesses, largely restaurants, as well as spas, salons, and other local businesses like accountants, law services, photographers, home remodeling companies, and more. Locu helps the businesses get their unstructured data into more structured formats, so they can then promote and share it with other services via Locu’s platform, including Yelp, YP.com, Foursquare, TripAdvisor and Facebook.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Locu and GoDaddy had been working together since May, when GoDaddy first integrated Locu’s Website Builder, which allowed businesses an easier way to create, manage and update their menu and services from either web or mobile.

“Locu epitomizes what GoDaddy is all about – both companies are hell-bent on helping the ‘little guy’ thrive on the Internet,” said GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving in a statement. “Locu is comprised of amazing technologists who have taken the very complex problem of helping small businesses ‘get found’ wherever consumers are looking and are solving it through elegant, technology-based services.”

The startup’s goal, explained co-founder Rene Reinsberg last year, was to take the “messy, distributed data sets” that can’t be easily understood through more automated means, like web crawlers for example, and add structure to that data through a combination of both machine learning and crowdworkers. Locu employs a team of workers who are trained in how to use its special markup language to tweak, correct and adjust the data after the machine-learning side of the system picks it up from around the web.

Initially, Locu targeted the restaurant vertical, specifically restaurant menu data. It later began expanding into other local business verticals to collect their data, including price lists and specials, and began partnering with third parties to make better use of that data online. Once data was in Locu, merchants could claim their profiles then post changes, updates and deals, which would then be synced around the web to other services, like Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor and elsewhere. Businesses could also add their Locu data to their own websites via WordPress or with just a few lines of code.

Just this month, the company announced it was opening up its publisher platform, making its data available to all third-party sites, without the need for them to access its API.

Though Locu has more than 30,000 businesses who have claimed their profile, the company also claimed to have data from “millions of businesses” in its database, including specific details like hours of operation, address, services lists and prices. The benefit to Locu’s system over that of other data providers is that of the speed with which it can serve updates. Historically, providers update feeds once a month, week or day, Reinsberg said earlier this spring, “the concept here [with Locu] is to have a real-time functionality…That’s where we need to be headed anyway because today a lot of searches are happening on mobile phones so they’re immediate – you’re looking for something right now.”

Locu had $4.6 million in outside funding, following its spring 2012 Series A led by General Catalyst Partners, with participation from Lowercase Capital, Lightbank and SV Angel, as well as angel investors, Naval Ravikant, Babak Nivi, Quotidian Ventures, and Matt Ocko of Data Collective.

Going forward, the company will continue to work within GoDaddy to help it reach the hosting company’s small business users, while still operating out of its San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass.-based offices. The company’s current employees and founders are all joining GoDaddy, and it’s hiring now to grow its team at its new home.

GoDaddy has been focusing on helping its business customers this year. The company acquired a mobile website-building startup called M.dot earlier in 2013 as another way for it to offer its small-business customers a one-stop shop for all their online activities.