Wiley Cerilli, who ran sales for Seamless Web for 10 years, saw the growing plight of restauranteurs, who were inundated with marketing options created by social sites, mobile apps and group buying services. Instead of launching another start-up aimed at tapping local merchant marketing dollars, Cerilli saw a different play to consolidate and solve the headache.
With SinglePlatform, a New York start-up that launched a year ago, Cerilli has built a one-stop automated shop for restaurants and local merchants to manage their online, social and mobile presence via an ongoing subscription. The company charges $100 to $200 yearly to update menus, information and specials on a whole range of sites, from City Search, Foursquare and Groupon to Foodspotting, Facebook and Twitter. For companies that don’t have a presence on these sites or even a simple web site, SinglePlatform can get them started.
“Everything is mobile and social and many restaurants don’t have a presence,” said Cerilli, the CEO and founder of SinglePlatform. “We’re taking merchants from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.”
SinglePlatform — which has raised $1.2 million from First Round Capital, DFJ Gotham, RRE Ventures, law firm Gunderson Dettmer and the founders of SeamlessWeb — has an interesting proposition for local merchants, who are increasingly bombarded by sales calls from daily deals sites, location-based apps and other online guides looking to get their money. There’s a big rush on to capture local advertising dollars that traditionally went to newspaper, yellow pages and mailers and an array of companies are lining up to talk to local merchants to get them to advertise with them or offer deals through them as a way to reach local consumers. With one sign-on, restaurants can manage their digital presence, get feedback on what people are writing about them and hopefully drive more traffic to their locations without added fuss.
“A year ago, I realized we have so many logins to so many sites and I wished you could have one profile to log in,” said Cerilli. “I was thinking local business need the exact same thing. They have listings on Yelp, City Search, all these mobile apps, but they need one profile. Right now, they’re almost overwhelmed and it’s only going to get worse.”
SinglePlatform doesn’t just handle the online presence of merchants; it has a network of thousands of publishers such as Foodspotting, Menuism and others that it can tap to help promote its clients. The publishers get more-up-to-date listings, more traffic and the ability to share in pay-per-call revenue that SinglePlatform provides when the site drives calls to a restaurant. Restaurants and bars get more calls from interested consumers, which is still the main draw for local businesses.
The model has reportedly gotten the attention of Google, which is sniffing around the company. Cerilli wouldn’t comment on that. But it makes some sense as Google expands its efforts to tap the local market with its Places Pages, which allow merchants to claim their location and promote it. If SinglePlatform can show that it can reach small businesses effectively and be a true problem solver for merchants, it could be an inviting target for Google and others as well.
That’s the challenge for SinglePlatform. Cerilli said the company has 3,000 merchants signed on and expects to have 100,000 in the next year. It has a long way to go, but I think it has figured out a good way to build a business off the explosion in social and mobile. Rather than join the frenzy, it’s figuring out how to make money from it.