Bill Hartzer

Zvents Secures More Funding from Nokia Growth Partners, AT&T and NAVTEQ

Zvents, the site where you can discover things to do, has secured $24 million in funding from Nokia Growth Partners, AT&T and NAVTEQ. Nokia Growth Partners, is the growth capital arm of Nokia (NYSE: NOK), the world’s leading mobile phone supplier; NAVTEQ, is the world leader in premium-quality digital map data. AT&T (NYSE: T) is the largest U.S. wireless company which, through its YELLOWPAGES.COM subsidiary, is also the leading U.S. internet yellow pages search directory. Zvent’s existing investors, Vantage Point Venture Partners and Red Rock Ventures, also participated in the financing.

Zvents will use the proceeds to expand the reach of its local listings advertising network, which enables both local businesses and national chains to promote their locations with search-targeted events such as sales and weekly specials. Zvents will also further invest in expanding the deployment of its successful local search platform, which currently powers a network of more than 250 media partners.

Paul O’Brien, VP of Marketing of Zvents, told me today that this is “a strategic investment that is notable for the substantial amount, big-name investors, and innovation in local search.” This additional funding has very big implications, showing that local is not going away soon; it continues to grow as people get online and look for things to do in their local communities.

Nokia’s John Gardner said, “We are delighted to have led this round of funding for Zvents, enabling them to bring their world-class local search service to the converged worlds of internet and mobility. We believe that the combination of next-generation mobile devices and powerful server-side search services will be a powerful channel to deliver local information to consumers. Zvents has found an innovative way to connect local search to the marketing needs of local merchants, offering a compelling means of driving exciting, context-based mobile experiences.”

Zvents now powers a local search for a few hundred major media partners, including MSN through City Guides. The great interest stems from the unique ability for local businesses to promote themselves online in ways that match their established media buying patterns – through events listings such as sales and weekly specials that are distributed throughout the network.

Since its founding in 2005, Zvents has built a broad network of more than 250 media, advertising, and mobile partners including: Viacom’s (NYSE: VIA.B) mtvU, Microsoft’s (NYSE: MSFT) MSN CityGuides, AT&T’s YELLOWPAGES.COM, and hundreds of local media and newspaper sites owned by major local media firms including MediaNews Group, Freedom Communications, The McClatchy Company, and The New York Times Company. Zvents is continually growing its network of distribution partners both within the United States and internationally.

Zvents powers a unified international search index for the partner network, on which local consumers everywhere can perform “what, when, and where” searches for millions of events, businesses, performers, and other activities in their areas. This unique search technology platform aggregates data via web crawling and extraction, user- and merchant-generated content, and dozens of data partnerships; and provides localized search relevance and ranking to individual media partners.

Forbes ran an interesting Zvents feature last week in their print mag and online. What I find interesting is that I didn’t realize that local ads are very lucrative and average well over $1.00 per click:

Local ads are very lucrative, averaging $1.20 per click compared to 47 cents Web-wide, but search engines have done a mixed job selling local ads and geographically targeting ads with results. Part of the problem: A third of all searches have the intent of finding something nearby, but only 7% return a location. That limits ad inventories.

In local advertising, though, most small businesses “are still spending the majority of their ad dollars the old-fashioned way, on direct mail and print and online directories. All print and online directories grossed $15.1 billion in ad sales last year; local online search spending was $1.2 billion.”

Commenting on this news, Paul O’Brien has posted some personal thoughts on his own site.

“Zvents has spent four years building a world-class local search service,” said Ethan Stock, Zvents CEO and founder. “This funding will enable us to dramatically scale the value of that service to our network of media partners, local consumers, and local advertisers.”

According to O’Brien, “What Ethan has briefly highlighted is that Zvents is a unique local search engine. Now powering for a network of hundreds of web and mobile partners, including MSN, an index that features event listings to promote your local businesses. Simply, the company enables local businesses, merchants and retailers, and restaurants to submit both free and paid listings to the network.”

From what I am seeing, MSN, Google, and Yahoo! are trying to get into Local, but they’re not necessarily doing a very good job at it. Their core is providing search results for the world wide web, not Local. We’re beginning to see companies like Zvents become strong leaders in Local Search.

Update: Links have been removed from this post. November 15, 2014.

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