New Site Backyard Buys CitySquares

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.

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8 Responses to “New Site Backyard Buys CitySquares”

  1. Tweets that mention New Site Backyard Buys CitySquares -- Topsy.com says at

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Greg Sterling, Sebastien Provencher, Ben Saren, SMBinfo, shoppetweets and others. shoppetweets said: New Site Backyard Buys CitySquares http://ow.ly/1ahPot [...]

  2. Scott says at

    The big problem for any new entrant into this space is two-fold: a) not enough people interested in using mobile/local/social services yet and b) a ton of competition for the people that are. Even if you manage to differentiate yourself from FourSquare, Yelp or others and get some consumer attention, there is the ever looming Facebook platform. The user approach makes sense but is almost identical to Whrrl 2.0 which tested really well but ran in to the challenges above.

  3. Todd says at

    I agree that the online local space is getting more and more congested. However, Backyard has a great product that will be shown at ILM. I think they are going to be able to differentiate themselves very well from the competition. Obviously, Citysquares does give them national attention and info right away, but i think people will be suprised at how fast Backyard will rise.

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    Todd . . . Obviously we’ll see. I’m not betting against it. I’m just saying it’s quite a challenging segment now. 

  5. Mike says at

    Is it a red flag that they don’t link or reference the local business’s website from the business profile page?

  6. Greg Sterling says at

    Don’t have any view on the website omission; may be just an oversight. 

  7. Tom says at

    Mike, Backyard does link to websites on the listing page when they are provided. Some of the places the data is pulled from do not provide this info, so until a business is actually contacted by Backyard, or vice versa, this information may not be available. Here is a quick example of a listing w/ a direct URL: http://bckyrd.com/p/Elite-Tan-and-Spa-697546651/

  8. Mike says at

    Thanks Tom – I must have looked at 20 or more that had reviews, coupons and menus, but no links, so thought it quite odd for that many to have no URL ( especially since these are all in his area) , so thank you for following up.

  9. PixelFish Backyard A Yerel Fırsat bulur says at

    [...] was only this past December that local business guide Backyard launched, backed by a few big-name early-stage investors. Now, less than five months later, they’re [...]

  10. PixelFish Buys Backyard (and Citysquares) says at

    [...] is being bought by local video provider PixelFish. The irony is that Backyard (which also owns Citysquares) had almost no shot at success as a local destination, though Espinosa and crew had some Facebook [...]

  11. PixelFish Finds A Local Deal In Backyard — Eric Schmidt's Second Venture Exit In As Many Weeks | Tech 2 Up says at

    [...] was only this past December that local business guide Backyard launched, backed by a few big-name early-stage investors. Now, less than five months later, they’re [...]

  12. Samira says at

    Thank you very much backyard, city squares for scamming me. Selling me a fake service where you couldn’t get my information correct in time for my free trial to be up, and over charging my credit card for services I never received! I love the way your customer service dept “Michael Stone
    is so rude and sarcastic and doesn’t care about the customer!!!
    Can’t wait to see this business crumble.

  13. Adios 2010 | Your Suspect says at

    [...] some of you likely know, it was announced in early December that CitySquares was sold to Backyard, a west coast based startup with funding from Google CEO Eric [...]

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