Signpost, a subscription-based local commerce platform for merchants, has raised $3.75 million in funding in a series a round led by seed investor Spark Capital. The company also announced that it has hired now-former Patch sales exec Christopher DePatria to lead Signpost’s sales force.
The New York-based service, which pivoted from the consumer deals space in late 2010, aims to replicate the Google AdSense model for local commerce by providing creative, distribution and CRM tools for SMBs looking to manage ongoing local commerce campaigns. The company has been on a roll of late, inking distribution partnerships with Google Offers and Nimble Commerce in March and releasing a major update to its merchant platform two weeks ago.
“We believe that paying for impressions online is ROI-negative for small businesses,” Signpost CEO Stuart Wall told Street Fight in an interview. “We believe fundamentally that the best thing a small business can do is closing the loop and driving a sale — going all the way from impression to purchase.”
Part of what makes Signpost an interesting play — and a target for investment dollars — is Wall’s commitment to replicating the digital advertising model in the local commerce space. He has ported much of the language of a supply-and-demand-side model, framing an ecosystem in which demand-side platforms like Signpost will plug inventory into publishers like Google Offers and Yelp through an automated exchange.
The question for Signpost is whether it can justify a monthly subscription. The local commerce offer has been a product since its inception and the low-capital costs have contributed to its rapid growth. With a stigma still looming around daily deals, merchants may be hesitant to place all their eggs in the local commerce basket by committing to a sizable monthly investment. Merchant attitude is evolving rapidly, however, and if Signpost can stick around to see the market mature, the company could carve out a dominant position in the ecosystem.
Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.
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