Will local businesses ever use all the digital resources at their disposal to share information and help others succeed? It’s a social media concept that, on paper, always makes a lot of sense. MerchantCircle was an early version of it. Bizhive, Perch and Alignable provide various incarnations of it.
San Francisco-based Townsquared is another. Founded at the end of 2013, the free, app-based service sees itself as a B2B version of NextDoor, and currently connects more than 10,000 businesses. The SMBs exchange information on marketing, HR, health, insurance, payments etc.
Townsquared has raised $15.4 Million from various VCs, as well as from Intuit — founder Scott Cook is listed as an advisor. It operates with local managers in San Francisco, Oakland, New York, Seattle and Portland. Boston, Chicago, Austin, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Miami are next. The company’s rule of thumb is to have one or two managers for every 100,000 local businesses in a community.
The service has been operating as a bulletin board, and relies on word of mouth and live events to drive new, verified signups. But it is poised to upgrade to a chat messaging platform via its just announced acquisition of Voo, which not only hosts chats but integrates various services and coupons, currently including OpenTable, Groupon, Uber and Empyr.
Voo is expected to help organize all the information coming into the service, while also make contacts instantly accessible. While a Voo-powered Townsquared will continue to be provided as a free service, we’d envision that custom versions might eventually provide a revenue stream from larger SMBs and enterprise businesses. “We’ll drive towards where business owners can learn about running their business, and communicate internally with people,” co-founder Ro Prakash told us.