Adding to its LBS portfolio, eBay has acquired Boston-based WHERE.com, which has a popular mobile app and operates a “hyper-local” mobile ad network. Last year eBay bought local product inventory finder Milo.com.
The terms of the WHERE deal were not disclosed.
Great Mix of Assets
The combination of WHERE’s location technology, ad network and deals capability proved a compelling mix to eBay, which has been searching for new sources of growth. One can also see how payments could fit into an holistic package, which would be about connecting online to offline.
WHERE had raised just under $20 million from investors. The Milo deal was worth a reported $75 million. My guess is that this deal was worth more than $75 million but probably less than $150 million.
Hyper-Local Mobile Network with 120K Advertisers
As mentioned, WHERE operates a “hyper-local” mobile ad network, which according to figures reported by TechCrunch includes “120,000 retailers, brands and small merchants.” However many of these advertisers come from third parties and other networks, such as CityGrid and AT&T Interactive. WHERE previously told me and others that it was motivated to create that network by the generally poor quality of locally targeted ads coming from the major mobile display networks.
The WHERE app was recently redesigned to make it less a “local search” app and more a “recommendation engine.” WHERE also owns the PC site WHERE.com, which could become a major asset if developed properly. This is at least as potentially valuable to eBay as the company’s mobile app.
But Can eBay Execute?
I was told by WHERE that the acquisition was based as much on the caliber of the team as any of the specific properties or assets. It will now be interesting to see what eBay does with that team and those properties.
eBay has a very mixed track record with acquisitions (e.g., Stumble Upon, Skype). So while there’s huge potential to combine WHERE’s strengths, together with Milo’s data and PayPal, eBay could easily fail to exploit and realize that potential. By the same token WHERE now has massive scale and resources behind it that could help further differentiate the company’s products in an extremely crowded and noisy LBS segment, which has attracted intense focus and investment from Google, Facebook, Yelp and daily deal sites like Groupon.