|Industry||Social network and marketing|
|Headquarters||San Ramon, California|
|Key people||Payam Zamani|
MerchantCircle is a San Ramon, California-based start-up company which helps small businesses network with other local businesses and reach local customers through free marketing tools and social media features. On May 26, 2011, Reply! Inc. announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire MerchantCircle for $60 million in cash and stock. The transaction was completed in Q3 2011. Reply! founder and CEO, Payam Zamani, is the CEO of the combined companies, called Reply! Inc.
Former CEO Ben T. Smith, IV co-founded the company in 2005. MerchantCircle was recognized as "Newcomer of the Year" by AlwaysOn Media in 2007, and was ranked as the fifth-largest local directory site and one of the top 160 sites in the U.S. by a Quantcast study in 2009. The MerchantCircle network signed on its one-millionth member merchant in early 2010, and expanded internationally to Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
MerchantCircle was founded in 2005, and announced in June 2006. It was named "Newcomer of the Year" by AlwaysOn Media in 2007. MerchantCircle received just over $4 million in early stage funding from venture capital firms Rustic Canyon Partners, Scale Venture Partners, and Steamboat Ventures. In November 2007, the company received an additional investment of $10 million from IAC, Square 1 Bank, and all three previous investors. Ron Conway was also an early investor.
In 2010, MerchantCircle acquired online meeting scheduler TimeBridge to enable merchants and consumers to schedule appointments and calls online. That same year, the company also took over management of RSS feed company Bloglines, through which it plans to deliver local and industry-specific targeted content to member merchants and local deals and information to Bloglines account holders.
MerchantCircle is an online business directory, social business network and marketing platform. It combines features from traditional Internet yellow pages sites such as Yellowpages.com, Citysearch and Yelp, with community-oriented social media sites like Facebook and Myspace. The company claims it has pre-populated its local business directory with 20 million business listings including details such as address, phone number and a map – this is not an uncommon practice amongst online directory sites. Businesses have the ability to upload pictures, write blogs, create coupons and send online newsletters through the network. Consumers can leave reviews on business listing pages and business owners can respond.
Business owners can also pay for search engine advertisements through MerchantCircle.
In June 2009, MerchantCircle launched a consumer social network to mirror its business social network. Consumers would be able to follow coupons and deals in real time from their chosen local merchants and connect via the network to other consumers. All consumer reviews are saved on a consumer profile. Business owners would also be able to directly communicate with those that connect with them. MerchantCircle calls the feature "Neighbors".
The company has an "A+" rating, recently upgraded from C+ from the Silicon Valley Better Business Bureau. The agency had compiled some complaints from small businesses, mainly stemming from inaccurate listing information and several hundred from automated phone messages that falsely stated that the small businesses had received bad reviews. All of these complaints are shown as having been addressed on the BBB site.
In May 2010, MerchantCircle settled a lawsuit with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office, agreeing to pay $900,000 but without admitting wrongdoing. MerchantCircle was accused of making automated telemarketing phone calls without a live person on their end. Telemarketers are required in California to have an actual person on the phone to allow recipients to opt out.
On May 4, 2011, MerchantCircle launched the first mobile app designed for small businesses to manage marketing.
On May 24, 2010, MerchantCircle entered into an agreement with VeriSign. As part of the deal, MerchantCircle businesses display the "VeriSign Trust Seal" in their member profile on the MerchantCircle web site.
On May 12, 2010, MerchantCircle expanded internationally, marketing its social networking service to Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
On January 18, 2010, MerchantCircle announced the network's one-millionth member.
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- "MerchantCircle Acquires TimeBridge to Offer Superior Online Scheduling Capabilities to over 1.3 million Local Business Owners". merchantcircle.com. 07/22/2010.
- "VeriSign and MerchantCircle Partner to Provide VeriSign Trusted Seal to Over 1 Million Small Business Owners". Marketwatch.com. 05/24/2010.
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