Friday, May 27, 2011

MerchantCircle and Reply! Thank You.

We've been overwhelmed by the response to yesterday's announcement and wanted to once again thank all of our friends, family, former colleagues, investors and advisers.

As shared in Ben's blog, we recognize that it's because we've been surrounded by such fantastic support, great people and brilliant minds that MerchantCircle is the platform you see today. The needs of our merchant base have driven the products we've created and we've been proud to serve them in the capacity that we have. And now, we're very much looking forward to delivering an even better customer experience!

The market response to this new combination has been fantastic. Thank you for tweeting, digging, facebooking, and emailing the many news clippings.  Each of your encouraging notes, texts, and phone calls were proudly shared with the rest of our MerchantCircle team. We've loved that you have been celebrating with us.

In case you missed some of the coverage, we're proud to pass it on.

And while you read, know that we're back to doing what we do best.. It's GSD time!


Payam Zamani and Ben Smith 
-Two Bay Area players in the increasingly competitive local online advertising space are hooking up as Reply Inc. announced plans Thursday to acquire MerchantCircle for $60 million. (San Francisco Chronicle.)

-When Wienbar and the rest of the team at Scale Venture Partners combed through a proposal for local ad network Reply to acquire local business directory MerchantCircle, they decided the companies were “more valuable together than apart.” (Wall Street Journal)

-MerchantCircle's Smith expects overall traffic to grow significantly as a result of the pairing... (ClickZ)

-Clearly, MerchantCircle brings Reply an inventory of small businesses. Reply says the combined company projects revenues of over $100 million in 2012. (TechCrunch)

-MerchantCircle itself has shaped up to be a strong, search-driven Internet Yellow Pages player — although it prefers to characterize itself in broader terms, having added a Q&A platform, appointments, leads widgets, etc. (BIA Kelsey)

The MerchantCircle Board in the voting room
-MerchantCircle has long targeted merchants in small locales versus catering towards the consumers, as sites like Yelp and CitySearch do. (Washington Post)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

MerchantCircle acquired by Reply! Inc. (And we're really excited!)

When MerchantCircle launched in 2006, our mission was simple: to build a network of millions of local business owners to help them market themselves to nearby consumers. We had visions of creating a powerful network for local businesses everywhere...
At the time, we were watching as billions of local marketing dollars were being spent on dying media like the Yellow Pages. We knew the web held significant promise for small business, but nobody had yet figured how to make it work on a local level. Determined to change that, we created a plan and started building.
Now, over 1.6 million local business owners have joined MerchantCircle, and are getting connected with 20 million consumers every month. For many of these users, MerchantCircle has been their first introduction to the power of the web.
Today, we're excited to announce that we just got better. MerchantCircle has been acquired by Reply! Inc., the leading marketplace for the acquisition of locally-targeted consumer traffic. (You can read all the details in our press release.)
“As the first investor in MerchantCircle, I can say it's been an incredible ride since Ben and I first incubated the company in our conference room back in 2004”, says Mark Menell, a Venture Partner at Maveron, LLC and the initial investor in MerchantCircle when he was a general partner at Rustic Canyon. “This is a big win for the MerchantCircle team and an even bigger win for local businesses and consumers."
For our merchant members, we're thrilled to assure you that this deal will result in an even more powerful network. It will mean more effective web marketing tools, more connections with local consumers, more inbound customer phone calls, appointments, request for quotes, and business leads for YOU.  For consumers, this means even more meaningful connections to businesses in your area. We'll be more capable of empowering mutually beneficial, productive local relationships.
The team at Reply!, led by CEO Payam Zamani, shares our passion for giving businesses the best place on the web to reach local consumers. The MerchantCircle team will become the Reply! Media division of Reply! Inc. and will continue to work in the interests of our merchant customers. If you’re worried that we’re going away, don’t! You can rest assured, because our dedication to growing and improving the MerchantCircle platform still remains true
Every small business owner needs someone to believe in them – we are no different. For our investors, this merger represents an excellent opportunity to achieve our vision.  Scale Venture Partners, Steamboat Ventures, and Rustic Canyon  believed in MerchantCircle from the beginning. They understood our passion and desire to make the local web scalable and profitable. We were determined to succeed where many dozens of other start-ups had failed. Even when we didn’t know exactly how we’d turn that vision into reality, they supported us with funding and great advice. We are very grateful for their help in getting to this point.
As with most great success, this milestone could not have been reached alone. It's only because we've been surrounded by such intelligent investors, advisors and team members that MerchantCircle has grown into the organization your see today. And we think it's time to call some people out…
Joey Levin, Kara Nortman, Rob Angel and Jay Herratti at CityGrid Media have been invaluable partners and friends of MerchantCircle and are very much appreciated. Ron Conway (the Silicon Valley Angel), Michael B. Aronson of MentorTech , Alex Lloyd of Accelerator Ventures , Auren Hoffman of Rapleaf, Patrick Grady of Rearden Commerce , and Chris Tolles of Topix  have provided direction, support, and contributions that for which we are more than thankful.
This announcement also offers a tangible victory for our dedicated Board of Directors Ben T. Smith, IV, Scott Hilleboe, Peter C. Horan, Mark Menell, Neal Hansch, and Sharon Wienbar. The MerchantCircle team cannot thank you enough for giving us your trust, offering us direction, and executing on decisions that weren't always easy.
Even with 1.6 million users on the MerchantCircle network, several individuals have continued to stand out. Making significant impacts in their communities while sharing their small business stories, Community Leaders like Michele Gorham , Gino Orfitelli  and Monte Tareski  keep the MerchantCircle team fired up. We do what we do because of merchants like them. They've been our evangelists in their local neighborhoods and they've reached across the web to offer community to new MerchantCircle members. We cannot tell you enough how deeply we appreciate your loyalty.
This is very much a team win.
For MerchantCircle employees, the success we’ve had to date in building a major force in local is due to your hard work, creative thinking and consistent dedication to producing the best products possible. 
There have been countless cubicle meetings, more pizza than we'd like to admit, and many long walks around the block- just to brainstorm. We've become real friends… and somewhere along the way, we've built a family. You've launched some brilliant products, weathered some frustrating storms and exercised excessive amounts of innovation and creativity. MerchantCircle exists because of you.
Former team members like Ryan Osilla, Daniel Swartz, Jennifer Lin, Irit Epelbaum, and David Creemer have left a significant mark on MerchantCircle and while they're no longer in the office, their contributions continue to permeate how we operate. Jason Culverhouse and Wayne Yamamoto were both essential elements in building MerchantCircle from the ground up. We see and appreciate their work everyday. And though they've moved on to a new venture, together, they're still very much a part of our everyday lives.
Thank you. You've each poured yourself into MerchantCircle and now we're excited to join the Reply! Inc. team together. This acquisition means even more opportunity to be a part of an innovative, growing organization with an incredibly bright future.
It's time to celebrate!
Your MerchantCircle and Reply! Media Division Team

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Quick Review of This Week's Small Business Trends

What a week it was! Here's a quick recap.

(And make sure you're following us on Twitter for great tips, news, and articles throughout the week!)

Celebrate small business every week (USA Today)

What? You've never heard of Small Business Week? You're not alone. It's not exactly like Hallmark is cranking out cards with sentiments such as "To my favorite entrepreneur -- glad those years of eating peanut butter and jelly finally paid off!" (Read more)

Recession Brought a Small-Business Boom (

There are actually more small businesses now than there were in 2006, when the recession began. That’s according to Dun and Bradstreet which released a report on the state of small business this week. The trend follows a deep trough through the recession, but a steep climb as the economy has slowly recovered. (Read more)

Top Five Tips For Women Small Business Owners (Forbes)

Women-owned firms account for 40% of all privately held firms, employ more than 13 million people, and generate $1.9 trillion in sales, according to the National Association for Women Business Owners <> . However, most of these businesses (97%) have revenues below the million-dollar mark. (Read more)

Google Keeps Brands, Marketers 'Inside Search' (Media Post)

Google announced the launch of an official search blog Thursday, sending a message to marketers and those searching for content on the importance of search engine marketing and search activities across its portfolio of Web sites. (Read more)

Foursquare, LivingSocial eye local ad dollars (Reuters)

LivingSocial and Foursquare are both fighting for local ad dollars from mom and pop stores, neighborhood restaurants, and even big box retailers as online social media companies set their sights on a largely untapped pool of revenue. (Read more)

Friday, May 6, 2011

MerchantCircle Goes Mobile and Other News from the Week

It's been quite the week of exciting news! On Wednesday, TechCrunch broke the story of the MerchantCircle mobile app release and we couldn't be more excited. 

MerchantCircle VP Darren Waddell said it best, "We anticipate that merchants will use the Merchant Mobile App in a variety of different ways - everything from staying on top of new customer inquiries to uploading real-time photos of their business and their work. We believe that making content creation fast, easy and convenient will enable many more merchants to maintain the kind of robust online presence that will help them drive new business.”

There were some other interesting stories that came out this week. As usual, we wanted to keep you in the know. Enjoy!

Google Business Photos – Google Focuses on the Small Business (WebProNews)

Last year, Google started going around taking pictures of the inside of stores , for what seemed like the indoor equivalent of Street View for businesses. Google has now announced the product around this, which it is calling Google Business Photos.

(Read more.)

Hot topic in the Senate? Declaring that May is Small Business Month (Sacramento Bee)

Its stated goal was to "raise awareness of the contributions made by outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners.  " But that wasn't the issue. (Read more)


How Would a Website "Do Not Track" Law Affect Small Businesses? (ReadWriteWeb)

The so-called "Do Not Track" legislation is favored by consumer groups and privacy advocates, but opposed by many online marketers, who fear it may limit their ability to monetize their content and services online. (Read more.)

Blogging for small business – what you should have in mind (Travel Wires)

End of the day, your blog is directly responsible for your growth and reputation. At a glance, here’s what you should keep in mind while blogging for small business. (Read more.)

Facebook accounts for 31.2% of display ads (

With 346 billion display ad impressions in the U.S. in Q1 2011, Facebook beats the top ten combined. (Read more.)