Category Archives: Verticals

G5 Raises $75 Million; Extends Vertical Marketing Focus

We like vertical specialization for local marketing, and have long admired the approach of G5, the Bend, Ore- based local marketing firm that started with a focus on self-storage unit owners in 2005, and later added senior housing, multi-unit property managers and student housing. The 175-person company has 425 customers controlling 6,900 properties. Sixty percent of its business now comes from multi-unit property managers.

Last week, G5 hit the big time with a $75 million raise from Peak Equity Partners. The company says it will use the funds to extend its Marketing Cloud, which has gone beyond G5’s origins in search, and now also provides a full slate of analytics, search, social and advocacy.

CEO Dan Hobin told BIA/Kelsey that the key is to recognize the individualities of each vertical. Self storage takes about a month to fill a vacancy. Multi-family units take two weeks. Senior housing has a longer cycle: three months.

Most vertical owners perceive their marketing efforts as too expensive for property owners, and too cumbersome for consumers, says Hobin. It takes three days for consumers to get an apartments, from the time they look at it to the time they sign the lease, he says. “It is easier to buy a car than rent an apartment. You should be able to find a place in five minutes.”

Hobin says G5 works with all levels of property owners, but in the apartment space, for instance, most of them are the “middle level” below the publicy-owned, giant REITs which have traditionally used sites such as They could use G5 to complement those big site efforts, he says. G5’s emphasis on a wide range of channels, including lower cost channels such as social media and ratings and reviews, saves them money and drives more traffic to their sites. The analogy is to a site such as Kayak in the travel space.

While G5 is focused on its four verticals today, it is looking to expand to additional verticals. If it adds a vertical, it will really focus on its individual characteristcs, says Hobin. “It is difficult to enter new verticals,” he said.

On Demand is New Focus for Some Home Service Providers

Competition in the home services leads space has been heating up – and so are the tensions. Just this week, Angie’s List has filed suit against Amazon, contending that Amazon Home Services has been egregiously signing up for the member’s- only service around the U.S., and grabbing proprietary service recommendations.

On Demand home services is something that several of the companies are hoping to differentiate themselves with. We saw it with HomeJoy at our LODE event a couple of weeks ago in San Francisco. Home Advisor has also been rolling out its Instant Booking on demand service.

Mizamin, an Israeli Startup with international ambitions, also hopes to get ahead with on demand home services. Its mobile app has gotten 200,000 downloads in Israel, mostly generated from a small social media ad campaign and word of mouth. CEO Yuval Aronov told us that providing home services on an on demand basis has some quirks to it. Many home pros resist keeping to real schedules and are eager to take jobs as they come up. On the other hand, certain types of jobs, such as pest control, need to be scheduled in advance.

Mizamin has built an App that enables multiple providers to receive queries in real time. When a plumbing assignment goes out to Mizamin’s roster of 40 plumbers in Tel Aviv, three-to-six usually answer, he says. The biggest channel for most plumbers have been SMS. “Some don’t use their smartphones professionally,” he says. “They are afraid to drop them in the toilet.”

Booker Software Raises $35 Million; CEO Josh McCarter Talks to BIA/Kelsey

Booker Software announced today that it has raised $35 Million, which it will use to invest in sales and marketing capabilities and in developing vertical-specific products that “drive more value to merchants,” said CEO Josh McCarter, in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey.

McCarter noted that 9,000 locations are under contract and over 60,000 business users. These are users who are “logging in every day. They are not just signing on once a month” to create a promotion or similar feature. They use Booker’s services as an integral part of their business.

Next steps for the company will further leverage all the trends impacting services-based SMB marketing, including CRM; retention marketing; Point of Sales services; scheduling; and mobile apps via a partnership with Como.

“Last year, we refocused on things that help you grow and operate more efficiently,” said McCarter, noting that the company rebranded from Gramercy One to specifically focus on the SMB space, which now accounts for 80 percent of its revenue. “The data that Booker can aggregate really powers the growth engine,” he said. Services such as email and CRM are only as powerful as the data they can use.

While spas and salons continue to account for a significant portion of the company’s business (dating to its origins as SpaFinder), a number of verticals hold great promise, said McCarter. Pet services, daycare and after-school services (music lessons, art lessons) are doing “very well.” Another area of growth is a JV with The Golf Channel that enables customers to book tee times and other services.

The new round of funding is on top of $40 million previously raised. Several mid-sized funders that specialize in SMB services were included in the round, including Signal Peak (InfusionSoft) and Jump Capital (Swift Pages). The round was led by Medina Capital, a cloud infrastructure specialist.

Other investors included Revolution (Steve Case and Ted Leonsis), Bain Capital, TDF Ventures and Grotech Ventures. In addition, a “strategic investment” was made by First Data, the payment processing giant, who will be announcing details of its relationship with Booker in coming months.

McCarter noted that each investor brings a unique appreciation of Booker’s goals in serving the SMB community, which has been “underserved” by larger VCs, which McCarter called “SMB-averse.” But there is a definite need for SMB services, which focus less on return policies or other ecommerce issues. They are more about everything that a business needs, from scheduling services to POS innovation to equipment rentals. It is a $2.4 trillion space, he argued.

Booker Software CEO Josh McCarter

Yelp Buys Eat24, Taking Online Delivery In House

Yelp is acquiring Eat24, the online delivery and pickup service that competes with GrubHub, and other national and regional players for order-taking, food search and discovery. The service is being acquired for the equivalent of $134 million ($75 million in cash and 1.4 million Class A shares).

Eat24 currently provides menus, order=taking and tracking services for more than 20,000 restaurants in 1,500 cities – 10,000 fewer than GrubHub. Like GrubHub, its revenue model is based on commissions (industry standards are typically 10-12 percent per order.) The service is free to the consumer, although restaurants can charge their own delivery fees.

The service is largely dependent on customer pick up at restaurant locations, but delivery is becoming a larger factor. In several California cities, for instance, Eat24 will soon be providing delivery via SideCar, the shared-car service.

Founded in 2008, Eat24 has been integrated with Yelp’s mobile app since 2013. By bringing Eat24 in-house, Yelp can strengthen its platform of services, which have grown beyond advertising and now includes scheduling, reservations/booking and offers. Yelp reports that it has over 93,000 active local accounts.

While Eat24 currently lags behind GrubHub, online delivery is still a nascent category. Moreover, it is ripe for cross-over activity with other food-related segments, including rating/reviews (i.e Yelp and Zomato, which just acquired IAC’s UrbanSpoon); online reservations (i.e. Priceline’ s OpenTable); and eventually even grocery delivery (i.e. Amazon, WalMart and Google.)

‘Selling Services on Amazon’ Launches Beta in Nine Markets

After months of rumors, Amazon has entered the increasingly crowded service pro referral space with a beta test in nine markets. According to a dedicated web site for the launch, service pros will pay Amazon 20 percent for services that cost $1000 or less, and 15 percent above that amount, as well as monthly subscription fees – although those fees are waived through June 2015. The 20 percent fees are comprised of 15 percent service platform fees, and 5 percent transaction fees.

The service is launching with a strong focus on consumer electronic installation and repair, fitting with sales on the Amazon site. Auto and bike services are also featured, with more categories likely to be added. All pros must undergo background checks, which will cost $50 (plus $40 per employee); have appropriate licenses, and carry insurance. All listings will also feature Yelp reviews as well.

Amazon will be competing against a number of other players in the space, including market leaders such as Angie’s List and Home Advisor;, a new site launched by former Amazon exec Matt Williams; Serviz, a new site launched by former ReachLocal exec Zorik Gordon; and The Home Depot’s Red Beacon service.


Home Advisor’s Chris Terrill: Poised for Growth, New Services

Almost two years ago, IAC was in a tough situation. It had a leading services referral business in ServiceMagic, whose main rival was Angie’s List, the paid subscription service. But the service wasn’t growing; had relatively low brand awareness; and seemed to be in danger of getting bypassed by a new crop of social media driven services.

In an episode of creative destruction, IAC, along with new CEO Chris Terrill, made the decision to rename the company to “Home Advisor”; and narrow its focus to home services. Terrill later refocused the company’s primary business model from pay per lead to monthly subscriptions that would include a variety of value added social media and directory services (pay per lead options remain available).

Today, the Home Advisor brand may not be as well known as ServiceMagic at its peak. It also remains under the radar in the business world. That is partly explained by the company not being VC backed or publicly traded as a separate company outside of IAC, says Terrill. “We don’t get written about as much.”

But Terrill says that the company remains one of the largest home service networks, with 80,000 service pros, two million reviews and 30 million home owner requests. It is also growing and profitable, and highly focused on “strategic sales.”

And it is focusing more on the awareness issue, conducting an ambitious TV campaign to reach more home owners. It will be spending even more on TV in coming months, with budgets that are in the “tens of millions” of dollars.

The picture looks bright going forward for Home Advisor and the entire home services space, says Terrill. Over the next couple of years, Terrill says Home Advisor will have a singular focus on growing its U.S. business.

“A lot of small entrants are coming into the space,” such as, the service launched by former Amazon leaders (not to mention Amazon’s own entrance into the space.) “We see the local home space heating up,” he says. But Home Advisor remains a leader in the space – competing against players such as Angie’s List, Yelp and Home Depot’s Red Beacon — and continues to add building blocks, Terrill says.

Today, for instance, the company announced the purchase of Mhelpdesk, a 30-person Fairfax, VA-based company that helps service pros manage their businesses, and allows home owners to directly book services – especially over mobile phones. The service has over 10,000 service pros.

Terrill says that Mhelpdesk is a leader in a “rapidly growing space” that will prove increasingly important to the company. “It could not have worked 2,3,4 years ago,” he says, before the popularization of cloud-based mobile devices for SMB service providers. “It’s an important piece of the puzzle.”

Empty Seats at Lunch? Mogl Launches Time of Day Promotions

Loyalty programs offering cash back or other rewards make a lot of sense for merchants – until it is 7:30 pm on Friday, and the loyalty program is still giving 20 percent back even though it is prime time for the restaurant. Mogl, the San Diego-based loyalty firm now working with over 1,000 restaurants in Southern California, San Francisco and Phoenix, thinks it has solved the problem.

Since June, the company — which has raised $25 million and set to initiate a new round — has been rolling out a new version that lets restaurants choose the amount of cash-back based on time of day. A 20 percent promotion at lunch can shrink to 1 percent for dinner, and go back to 10 percent for brunch – based on when the restaurant has seats to fill. Mogl calls this putting “butts in seats”.

How does it work? Restaurants log on to their dashboard on the Mogl website to program their cash-back offer by day and time. Mogl has established direct relationships with Visa, MasterCard and American Express providing users with a seamless, coupon-less, loyalty card-less way to redeem the real-time rewards if they just pay with any debit or credit card.

While several other loyalty providers also allow for time of day promotions — some even extending beyond restaurants to include hotels and other categories — CEO Jon Carder claims that MOGL is actually the first loyalty provider to get a live feed of card transactions. He asserts that other loyalty companies gain access to feeds from banks and payment processors that aren’t in real time. Moreover, these feeds only provide day of transaction data – which isn’t useful for executing time-based promotions, he argues.

Others, like FiveStars, get much closer to real time data – if consumers are willing to provide phone numbers or swipe dedicated loyalty cards though a restaurant’s POS. Carder feels this is a disadvantage. Mogl’s seamlessness is a major step up, he says, comparing it to what Uber did for the taxi industry (to us, this is an arguable point).

Regardless, MOGL’s new flexibility with promotions has also enabled it to pivot its business model. The company used to charge a flat 5 percent fee to restaurants across the board. But now – with rewards becoming variable – it has switched to a flat monthly fee of $199. The fee is refundable if restaurants don’t clear $199 in revenue a month from Mogl users These fees are on top of reward/jackpot fees, which the restaurant can now set for itself. The top three customers in a month at each restaurant win a jackpot bonus. The company allows customers to donate their cash-back to local food banks. More than 800,000 meals have been given away.

Mogl’s new model is also winning it some new customers – including some of the hottest restaurants that had shied away from flat, cash-back reward programs in the past because they weren’t able to change the amount based on time of day, says Carder. Even these establishments find themselves needing to fill their seats on weekday lunches.

We’ll have an extensive rundown of loyalty strategies and issues for SMBs at our Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing event Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. Groupon’s Dan Roarty is keynoting, and our session includes executives from First Data, Mercury Payments and SignPost.. Register here.