Truecaller is on a roll. The Swedish startup’s reverse-lookup phone directory is a big hit in emerging markets and the Middle East, and it’s seeing crazy growth – 10 million users a year ago, 20 million six months ago and 45 million today. Investors have noticed: on Thursday, Truecaller revealed an $18.8 million funding round led by Sequoia Capital.
Truecaller has also announced a partnership with Yelp, a little bit like the Twitter deal it struck in December. This time around, the integration means that if you get a call from a restaurant, for example, you will immediately see which restaurant it is, its Yelp ratings and the pictures people have uploaded of it.
CEO Alan Mamedi told me it’s “great to have such a professional VC on board.” Sequoia’s cash is great too, particularly as Truecaller has been mostly bootstrapped up until now. The company’s been going for four years already, and this round takes its total investment up to roughly $20 million. It hopes to grow from 35 employees to 60 by the end of the year.
Truecaller’s initial big selling point is that it makes it easy to identify spam callers – its users maintain a crowdsourced database of known marketers – but users can also search for names and enter numbers to see who they are assigned to, as Truecaller partners with local phone directory services. Users can also upload their phonebooks to aid the directory aspect of the community.
According to Mamedi, the Yelp tie-in should help Truecaller break into the U.S. and European markets. Not only does it add ratings to caller ID, but it also lets users search for restaurants and shops from within the Truecaller app. Why do that rather than just search in Yelp? Because of Truecaller’s rapidly growing community.
“We do integrate [Yelp's] APIs for manual searches, but we also combine this with our own social graph,” Mamedi said. “So say you search for hamburgers in San Francisco — we will rank the results based on your social graph. Say you have a couple of friends who have these restaurants in their phonebooks. We will rank those restaurants higher up for you.”
This company is one to keep an eye on. Its service is already handy, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that it’s preparing to evolve into something more. The “phone” aspect of smartphones may be frequently de-emphasized these days, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for innovation there. Here’s Truecaller’s latest promo video, showing what it can do now: