Steve Espinosa, who made his reputation in the world of local SEO, is this morning launching Backyard (BCKYRD) a new local-social site. The site is impressively funded by Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures. Jason Calacanis and Dave McClure also participated in the initial round.
These “marquee” investors will get lots of press attention and lend some immediate credibility to the new site.
In another surprise the new venture announced that it had acquired Boston-based CitySquares, which is run by Ben Saren. That gives Backyard immediate national reach and a number of national advertiser relationships.
I spoke at some length with Saren last night, who was pleased about the deal and will stay on with Espinosa as an advisor and/or in some additional role yet to be decided. It’s not yet clear what the fate of the CitySquares brand will be. Given the noise and competition now in local Saren is not unahppy about exiting the segment for now.
Espinosa has some tricks, tactics and methods that have allowed him to get content that apparently is unique. (I won’t say what that is for now.) Yet Backyard, as an aspiring local destination, faces enormous challenges at this point.
When CitySquares launched, for example, there was no Google Places, no Facebook Deals, no Groupon and no Foursquare (et al).
It’s a very tough market. But Espinosa doesn’t care because he’s young, his cost structure is low and this is probably not what he plans to do with the rest of his life. He thinks he’s got an opportunity and he’s “going for it.” If the site’s traffic crosses a certain threshold (putting aside monetization) it will likely be bought. Getting there is the challenge.
It will thus be very interesting to see whether and to what degree the site can develop a following and create something different from the “commodity” local search experience that is so prevalent. There’s also a mobile app coming.
What are your views? Take a look and handicap it for me.