MojoPages, a 12-person local search/directory player based in the San Diego beach town of Solana Beach, has landed $5 million in Series A funding from Austin Ventures. Mojo has settled on $5 million as the amount it needs to get to breakeven on a cash flow basis, says CEO Jon Carder, who founded the company in 2007 after he got “ripped off” by some movers and wanted to build a local ratings and review site.
Carder notes that Austin Ventures was introduced to the company by longtime industry vets Jeff Stibel of Web.com and Dan Finnigan of Jobvite, who previously led local efforts with Yahoo, Knight Ridder and Pacific Bell. Both had been Mojo angels. Altogether, Carder says that angels have put about $1 million into the company, while he has put in about $500,000.
The company itself has been in the middle of transition. Shortly after launching, Carder says it began to move away from its initial focus on being a destination site. It had become quickly apparent that destination sites require lots of community interaction and there are already major entrenched players in the space, such as Yelp and Citysearch.
Today, the company includes a bevy of content sources, including reviews from Citysearch and Insider Pages. But it is primarily a traffic aggregator “generating tons of traffic,” says Carder. While community development efforts will continue to be supported, a small company has to focus on one thing or the other, he says. And fast, relevant and linked search wins out.
Part of the strategy going forward is to power local search for local media companies, basically charging a CPM rate of around $8. Already, the company has deals with a number of TV and radio outlets, including Salem Broadcasting, Tritan Digital, Belo Corp. and KSMB in San Diego. It also has advanced field trials with “the largest” newspaper, TV and radio players, says Carder. The signup efforts have been marked by aggressive sponsorship of San Diego-area industry events for newspapers, TV and radio stations, Yellow Pages and geodomain sites.
Efforts with the site should heat up further in September when a new version of the site is released. At that time, prior efforts at community, including large urban parties sponsored by advertisers, will be de-emphasized in favor of the new focus on search. They were fun, but barely breakeven, say Carder.
Today’s MojoPages news has coincided with several recent announcements from Local.com, which is probably MojoPages’ most direct competitor in vying for local search contracts via its white-label division, formerly known as PremierGuide.com. (Other competitors include Localeze and business directory products from Travidia and HarvestInfo. Several other companies have either folded up or been acquired.)
Local.com recently signed two major Belo newspapers: The Dallas Morning News and The Riverside Press-Enterprise. It has also secured a window of $10 million in new credit, secured by assets, that could be used for acquisitions.