Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

How Locu Became Every Local Business’ Personal Publisher

A little startup called Locu has inserted itself all over the local space — it’s now integrated with Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, OpenTable, CitySearch, Foursquare and every new Go Daddy business website registration — simply by being helpful.

Locu CEO Rene Reinsberg poses with a cardboard cutout of his idol, Tim Berners-Lee, at the Locu office

“We want to help local businesses get found,” explains Locu CEO Rene Reinsberg. So his company has built profiles for more than one million businesses across the U.S. by doing the grunt work of sending out contractors to input and correct menus from restaurants and building a semantic analysis system to interpret all that data.

Then, when the businesses find their Locu page at the top of search results, they can claim it and expand it — even use it for their own website. About 30,000 local companies have done this.

And then, the businesses can publish to all Locu’s partners from one place. So next time someone searches for some obscure dish on Yelp, if it’s on that restaurant’s menu, it will appear in search results, even if nobody has ever mentioned it by name in a review.

While San Francisco-based Locu might have originated with menus, this digitization of a list of services might be even more helpful for other businesses, like a spa or a dentist. Already, a third of new Locu sign-ups come from businesses that are not restaurants, according to Reinsberg.

And, as of last week, Yelp — which is Locu’s largest and latest partner, accounting for more than half of its 200 million U.S. monthly network uniques — now includes Locu listings from all local businesses, not just restaurants. Here’s an example of that.

Funnily enough, Yelp itself doesn’t directly support businesses easily updating their profiles with new menus and service lists. It’s actually sending businesses to Locu and competitor SinglePlatform (part of Constant Contact) to keep themselves current.

As of two months ago, Locu started charging $25 per month for the full range of these distribution services. It also takes in some revenue from its licensing partners, said Reinsberg. The 20-person company, which was founded at MIT, has raised $4.6 million from General Catalyst Partners, Lowercase Capital and others.

But Reinsberg said he ultimately wants to not just help businesses get found, but for Locu to “become part of the transaction,” by doing things like helping restaurants handle takeout orders, and by targeting deals and discounts. Since Locu’s distributors also see value in that sort of expansion — see Yelp’s new delivery offering — that could make today’s partners into tomorrow’s frenemies.

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