Alums Go Locu, Using Big Data to Improve Small Businesses

by Joe McGonegal on April 9, 2013

in Alumni Life, Economics, In the News, Learning, Modern Geekhood

What do you get when you combine two Sloan MBAs and two big brains from CSAIL?

The answer is Locu, a free web platform that delivers menus and real-time stats for thousands of small businesses using the latest in search engine savvy and localized analytics.

The MBAs — Rene Reinsberg GM ‘11 and Marc Piette GM ’11 — joined CSAIL senior PhD candidate Marek Olszewski and postdoc Stelios Sidiroglou-Douskos to form Locu. They launched the site in 2011.

Marc Piette GM ’11 (left) and Rene Reinsberg GM ‘11 (right), two of Locu’s co-founders. Photo: locu.com.

Together, these four entrepreneurs found both a market in need, small businesses, and a large willing consumer base, one fatigued by Yelp ratings and Groupon discounts.  Simply give them a menu of pizzas, health club classes, or handyman services, and Locu’s software does the rest, pushing the information to dozens of reputable websites and social media platforms that aggregate such services.

In other words, finally, that Chinese takeout in town that you love or your [Town-name] House of Pizza will have a website, or at least appear in search results.

Combining SEO with supply-and-demand economics, the Locu platform aims to give savvy business owners far more than just star-ratings and user reviews.  Though they started with a simple product called MenuPlatform, the company’s business model is ambitious—and you might think eerie: “Our mission is to structure the world’s information.” Nevertheless, it’s generating plenty of buzz.

Restaurants have jumped onboard. Locu estimates that it will index its millionth menu this year, maximizing that menu’s impact across web, mobile, and social platforms. OpenTable, which already had a pretty firm grip on the e-menu niche, conceded to Locu’s more powerful code last fall in a can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em type concession (OpenTable still has the market on reservations).

Aside from restaurants, enough corner stores in Locu’s two hubs (Cambridge and San Francisco) had signed up by last week that the owners were able to publish a study on hipsters and PBR beer on their blog. If anyone has yet to understand the wonders of big data, perhaps Locu’s beer maps of Budweiser and Pabst distribution can win them over.

Next up for Locu? What about ordering takeout from a Facebook page?

“The reality is this: we’re geeks,” the owners write on their blog. “We love technology and spend our days finding new ways to apply it to the merchant world to make things better.”

 

Update: Locu was purchased in October 2013 by GoDaddy.com for a reported $70 million. 

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