Getting to the Next Stage: Praized Media Hires Siemer & Associates to Find Strategic Partner

One of the first things you learn when you launch your own startup is to actively monitor opportunities in the market and move quickly to leverage them. In my case, it happened three times in the last three years.

The first strategic move happened back in the fall of 2006 when Sylvain Carle, Harry Wakefield and I founded Praized Media to help local media companies leverage the rising force of social media and online word-of-mouth. I also started blogging about what I call “local 2.0,” the intersection of local search and social media. At the time, most people believed that this convergence would not happen. Three years later, it’s one of the hottest sectors.

We made the second key move in fall 2008. Having launched our first social local tools (for WordPress, Movable Type, Facebook and our hub site) a couple of months before, we were approached by a few major media players who signaled to us they would be interested in using the technology we had built within their own online platform. This gave us the confidence to develop white-label enterprise versions of our social local media software, which has been in the market since spring 2009. Building on the popularity of our initial module, we developed many more enterprise modules described here.

The third strategic move is happening now. Last fall (what is it with fall???), we were approached by two US investment banks who aspired to represent us if we ever wanted to find a strategic partner for Praized Media. A few companies also hinted to us that they might be interested in investing in or acquiring Praized Media. Based on that enthusiasm, Sylvain and I (along with our board) discussed the pros and cons of going to the altar with a strategic partner vs. continuing alone.

The market is super-hot for technologies like ours. In the last three months, there has been a flurry of acquisitions and funding events in the “social local” space (we’ve created a document listing them if you’re interested). We could go on the road and raise new VC money to fuel our growth, but anyone that has raised those kinds of funds before knows that this is a brutal process, even when your market is hot. It takes a lot of time and energy, and for small companies, the process forces you to take your eyes off the product/company development roadmap. At the core, Sylvain and I are product/technology guys and that’s what we want to do. In the last two years, we’ve built world-class real-time social local search technologies. We’ve assembled a five-star (pun intended) social local technology development team. We’re notable thought-leaders in our space.

The future of local media will be centered on Aggregation / Discovery / Social / Search and our technology stack enables that. We believe what we’ve built (team and technology) represents the cornerstone of the next-generation local media company (traditional or pure play), and we want to focus on building that vision with a larger organization.

For all those reasons, we have decided to hire [praized subtype=”small” pid=”858569eeccb433824aca7193236f55ce” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”], an investment banking firm in Los Angeles that specializes in digital media, to represent us in our search for a strategic partner. We’re obviously supported a 100% in this decision by our board and the whole team is excited by this new move. For our current customers, collaborators and service providers, it is business as usual as this does not impact our day-to-day operations (actually, it frees up more time!). Given current market conditions, we are extremely confident we will find the right strategic partner.

If you’re interested in discussing more the opportunity, you can contact Siemer & Associates at (310) 496-4510 or info@siemer.com.

Who Will Control Your Identity?

Sylvain Carle has a post on “distributed identity” today on his personal blog . As I noted last week in my Web 2.0 communities Trends post, “identity” is one of the key elements of Web 2.0 communities. Recent news (from the last few days in fact) shows that this a very hot topic. Facebook officially launched its Facebook Connect program (and its partnerships with Digg and Hulu), I’ve been playing with Google Friend Connect on Guillaume Thoreau’s blog, SixApart announced Typepad Connect, WordPress is quietly preparing Buddypress and the “open stack” with OpenID and oAuth is still out there as open options to those proprietary log-in systems.

What it means: controlling identity is one of the next big wars on the Web. Only sites/systems that have large install bases of users (Google, Yahoo, MSN, WordPress, SixApart, etc.) can hope to fight this battle. If you haven’t been collecting user information (like e-mail addresses), you will be dependent on these large identity networks. That’s not a bad thing though! This will allow you to jumpstart any initiative that requires your users to log-in. As long as users give you permission to access their data, you’re still ok. Main challenge: will users trust private companies will their identity information? Or will open standards triumph in the end? BTW, if you’re a media company and you’re still tied to a large ISP, you could be one of those big identity providers (even through OpenID). There’s still a play for you.

Praized Media News: Praized Media Introduces First Community-Focused Local Search Platform For Social Media Sites

PRAIZED MEDIA INTRODUCES FIRST COMMUNITY-FOCUSED LOCAL SEARCH PLATFORM FOR SOCIAL MEDIA SITES
Technology Platform Enables Bloggers and Online Communities to Capture, Organize and Aggregate Local Conversations; Launches First Communities on MoCo Loco Design Blog and Facebook

MONTREAL, Quebec – July 9, 2008 – Millions of conversations about local places are occurring across blogs and social media sites every day, yet they are fragmented and unstructured. Online communities now have the tools to capture, aggregate and structure these conversations to deliver relevant recommendations for their users, thanks to Praized Media, the first distributed local search platform designed for social media. The new venture, founded by a team of social media experts and local search technology veterans from Yellow Pages Group, today announced the beta launch of its platform and availability of the first Praized communities on MoCo Loco design blog and Facebook.

Praized Makes Local Search Simple and Relevant

Praized’s platform is based on a distributed approach to ensure that each community delivers local results that are relevant to its users. For example, a Praized installation on a vegan blog will have completely different restaurant recommendations than on a meat-lovers’ blog because the two groups have fundamentally different tastes. Praized has developed a platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges associated with aggregating social media content around places and offers the following key benefits to social media publishers and their communities:

  • Expand Content, Ad Revenue and Page Views: Praized’s platform is free to social media sites and provides publishers with new sources of content, incremental ad revenue and increased page views. The platform enables site publishers to easily leverage their existing community to tap into the valuable, but difficult to execute local and social search space. It is also fully search-engine optimized to help drive additional local traffic to community sites from search engines.
  • Seamless Integration: Praized designed a white-label platform that integrates seamlessly with editorial content by using either an API or plug-ins that are compatible with SixApart’s MovableType and WordPress. Bloggers and site editors can embed snippets of merchant information within posts or news articles to drive traffic to their Praized-powered local section. Praized also designed its platform to be available to Facebook application developers and others through an API.
  • Rich Local Content: Partnerships with Yellow Pages Group Co. and Localeze provide each Praized community with access to more than 17 million searchable North American business listings. Each listing has a place profile with contact information, a map and default tags. As users contribute additional tags, the merchant profile gains added context and color.
  • Management Tools: The Praized platform is equipped with several moderation and content management tools. Editors can screen incoming comments about places to ensure that only appropriate information is shared with their community. A widget can be placed on a site’s home page, highlighting the community’s favorite local picks and letting users know about the local search section. A local search box can also be installed right on the home page for easy search access. These tools are deployed through either full-featured, customized blog plug-ins or Javascript.
  • Discoverability & Social Tools: Praized communities enable users to search, discover and discuss places with like-minded people. Users benefit from discovering the “long tail” of places via discussions on lesser known local merchants that struggle to be found through Web search. End-users also get real value from social tools that allow them to tag, comment, bookmark, share and vote on places that matter to them.
  • Centralized Database: An aggregated view of local conversations from all Praized communities is compiled at www.praized.com, enabling users to discover new like-minded groups.

“As social channels are becoming increasingly important for consumer research, users turn to their trusted communities, or tribes, for recommendations and opinions on local places to make better decisions,” said Harry Wakefield, chief executive officer at Praized Media. “Praized was founded on the principle of ‘trusting your tribes’ and provides the tools for social media publishers to capture word of mouth occurring within their communities, giving users a simple way to search, discover, and recommend local places with like-minded folks.”

Praized Powers Local Search for Design Buffs and Social Networking Enthusiasts

The first online community to use the embeddable Praized platform is MoCo Loco, the modern and contemporary design blog. The MoCo Loco audience will benefit from access to a comprehensive database that pulls together all conversations that have occurred on the blog and Praized’s searchable places database to deliver relevant recommendations. The platform’s integrated social tools allow users to discuss and discover new local places with like-minded people. While the blogging tools allow Moco editors to blog about local places easily and solicit their readers’ opinions.

Praized also announced today the launch of its Facebook Praize’n’Raze application, allowing Facebook users to create a unique local search experience that fits the context of their tribe of friends. Users will be able share their favorite local places with friends on Facebook and find out if they agree or disagree with their friends’ choices with the Praized application. Will you Praize or Raze their choices?

“We are thrilled to launch the first Praized community on such an active blog and also make our versatile platform available to Facebook users,” said Harry Wakefield, chief executive officer of Praized Media. “The MoCo Loco audience can truly benefit from a local search site because these folks share an interest and passionate discussions around modern design and furniture, while our Facebook application opens the door for any type of group or tribe of friends on Facebook to have a local search tool to deliver relevant, trusted recommendations.”

Praized’s founding team has extensive experience in local search and new media technology. Wakefield is the former general manager of Yellow Pages Group online directories, is the founder of a Technorati Top 1000 blog and was instrumental in the launch of Teleglobe’s global internet service. Sylvain Carle, once a Silicon Valley CTO for hire, is Praized’s chief technology officer and has been at the bleeding edge of new media and networked applications for more than 10 years with lead roles at LVL Studio, Messagia and My Virtual Model. Sebastien Provencher is the company’s vice president of product management and business development. Previously, Provencher developed Yellow Pages Group’s most successful online advertising product (DirectoryPlus) and striked a strategic deal with Google, helping create a new vision around local search for the company.

In an earlier announcement, Praized released details of its distribution agreements with Yellowbook in the US and Yellow Pages Group Co. in Canada. Praized communities now have access to direct links to relevant local search results on yellowbook.com and YellowPages.ca websites, providing truly comprehensive results and options for users.

To learn more about Praized and its products visit www.praizedmedia.com or search Praized’s network of communities at www.praized.com.

About Praized Media, Inc.

Praized Media, Inc. is the first distributed local search platform designed for bloggers and social media publishers to capture, aggregate and structure their community’s conversations about local places. Free to bloggers and community site publishers, Praized’s platform comes pre-loaded with over 17 million North American searchable business listings and seamlessly integrates with all types of editorial content. Praized’s platform is based on a distributed approach to ensure that each community delivers local results that are relevant to its users and also hosts a centralized database with its complete network of communities at www.praized.com, providing a unique, highly targeted social media based local ad network. Founded by a team of local search technology veterans and social media experts, Praized is based in Montreal and received funding from Garage Technology Ventures Canada in September 2007.

Update: you can find the French version of the release here.