Yahoo Acquires ‘Pandora For Places’ App Zofari

Another acquisition for Yahoo, this one focused on improving the company’s local search capabilities: it has bought Zofari, a local recommendation app that uses machine learning, natural language processing and third-party data from sources like Foursquare to extract information that matches you the user up with places you might enjoy visiting. Or, as we described them last year, a “Pandora for places.”

Yet, while Zofari may be all about discovery, this acquisition has completely flown under the radar: the deal was actually announced last week but it seems like no one really noticed. (A sign, perhaps, of how commonplace Yahoo tuck-in acquisitions have become.)

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed but in a blog post on Zofari’s site, the company’s four employees — Nate Weinstein, Jason Kobilka, Shahzad Aziz and Oliver Su — say they will be joining Yahoo.

“After meeting some of the amazing folks on the Yahoo Search team and hearing about their vision, the decision for our team to join Yahoo was an easy one,” the note says. “We can’t talk about what we’re working on yet but needless to say we are very, very excited.”

For now, Zofari’s iOS, Android and web apps will remain active.

Crunchbase doesn’t list any funding for Zofari, which was founded in 2012, although its AngelList profile notes at least one investor, NYC hedge fund analyst Adam Weitzman. We reported last year that they’d raised a $150,000 seed round from friends and family.

The company’s move to Yahoo points to a couple of different tech currents.

The first is around Yahoo itself: the company has made no secret of its interest putting mobile services at the center of its turnaround plan under CEO Marissa Mayer. In the last couple of years it has acquired some 30 mobile-related companies (Zofari is number 31, by my count). Given that Yahoo’s core advertising business continues to be banked on search — alongside its forays into other areas like media — it’s really no surprise to see Yahoo taking an interest in a team focused on local mobile search, which potentially could give the company some interesting monetising and ad opportunities.

The second trend is around the mobile and local space: with would-be competitors like Ness going to OpenTable and Alfred going to Google, and companies like Foursquare, Groupon, Square and Amazon also honing in on the social/mobile/local commerce opportunity, what’s clear is that this is a game of scale at the moment, giving limited opportunities for a small startup like Zofari to survive as a standalone entity, either in terms of picking up users or building decent margins around revenues.

Indeed, that’s the writing on the wall that the company saw for itself. “While we’ve built an experience we couldn’t be more proud of, we’re a small company and have always dreamed of reaching users at a greater scale,” the announcement notes.

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