Alibaba backs PlaceIQ, a provider of location tools and data

PlaceIQ has a new, big-name investor — Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

The companies aren’t disclosing the size of the deal; they’ll only say that it’s a strategic, minority investment, and that it’s an addition to the $25 million round that PlaceIQ announced at the beginning of this year. Co-founder and CEO Duncan McCall told me this is part of a larger partnership, where Alibaba will be using PlaceIQ’s technology.

“I don’t want to speak for [Alibaba], but in my mind, they didn’t want to invest in a company — they wanted to find a strategic partner,” McCall said.

PlaceIQ combines location data with “first-party” data from marketers to provide a fuller understanding of consumer behavior — not just whether someone’s visited a car dealership, for example, but whether they’re actually shopping for a car, and what kinds of TV stations they’re likely to watch.

McCall said Alibaba could use PlaceIQ’s technology in a variety of ways, including marketing, product recommendations and providing data for broader decision-making. In his view, this illustrates how location data has become useful for more than mobile advertising, or even advertising in general: “Location now becomes less about sales and marketing and more real technology making decisions and business insight where that becomes much more important.”

McCall also suggested that as PlaceIQ looks to expand internationally, it will continue to follow this partnership model.

“For us, our core value is in the data and technology,” he said. “When we want to get into [a new geography], let’s find the market leader and deploy with them.”