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Yext puts geo-marketing on the map

“Location, location, location,” so the saying goes. And Yext, a geo-marketing startup worth over $500 million, couldn’t agree more.  
 
The company built its business as the “next Yellow Pages” for an online and mobile world.  Their core software, Power Listings, streamlines businesses’ location information (store hours, phone number, last-minute closures, etc.) across various online platforms like apps, maps and social media.
 
If this doesn’t sound like a task worthy of advanced software, think again. Yext makes sure clients’ info is up to date and consistent no matter where you search for it, whether that’s on Facebook, Apple Maps, Yahoo, Foursquare, or Yelp—in total a network of about 100 different platforms. Multiply that by how many locations a business has, and the need for this software starts to make sense.
 
To date, Yext powers over 500,000 business locations, with clients ranging from large enterprises like REI, T-Mobile, Citibank and Fedex, to smaller business chains. Asif Khan, founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association, said Yext was “absolutely” a leader in its industry, explaining that the startup occupies the small but important niche in the geo-marketing sphere by catering to local businesses. Single Platform and Where 2 Get It are some of Yext’s biggest competitors.
 
Yext charges businesses around $500 for a standard package of its patented software, according to its website, a fee that Khan noted was on the pricier side for the industry.
 
Yahoo Finance toured Yext’s New York headquarters at One Madison Avenue where we heard about Yext’s future plans and what it means to be an NYC startup.
 
Up next for Yext
Yext’s next product will allow businesses to capitalize on “home field advantage” using beacon technology, said Jeffrey Rohrs, Yext’s chief marketing officer.  The new product will reach customers who are in stores’ physical spaces through their mobile devices, he said, without giving more detail.
 
With Yext’s advantage in location data, its move into beacon technology seems like a no-brainer.  
 
Facebook, Twitter and Google are all experimenting with beacon technology, which Rohrs acknowledged as “extremely validating“ for Yext.
 
Khan said that Yext is in a good position to enter the beacon technology market, as their large client base of small to medium size businesses has a lot to gain from beacons. But distributing beacons at low to no cost will be essential to Yext if they want these smaller businesses to participate, he said.
 
The idea behind beacons – which are devices that can send a signal to someone’s smartphone when they are in a certain proximity – is for businesses to send relevant messages to shoppers’ smartphones when they are nearby.
 
Just this week Target announced it will start testing beacon technology in 50 of its stores. For shoppers who have the latest version of the Target iPhone app on their phones, have Bluetooth turned on and who have opted in to receive alerts, Target will be able to send information on deals and product recommendations directly to their phones. Retailers such as Macy’s, American Eagle and Lord & Taylor have begun using beacon technology to reach customers as well.
 
New York born and bred
Yext was co-founded in New York in 2006 by Brian Distelburger and Howard Lerman (the entrepreneur also behind Confide—essentially Snapchat for the workplace).
 
Now they’ve recently expanded their offices to take over a floor the size of a city block. In the last year, the company has hired around 120 employees and expects to hire about 40 more by the end of 2015, bringing the total number to 400.
 
The power of location is a concept essential to Yext’s mission—and the company’s headquarters reflect it. Its office building marks the beginning of Silicon Alley—Manhattan’s startup corridor in the Flatiron district – and the company hopes to decorate the space with work from local artists, Rohrs told us.
 
Another advantage to being a startup in New York is the city’s healthy venture capital scene. In 2014 alone, New York startups took in some $4.5 billion in venture capital investing, a $1.6 billion dollar increase in funding from the previous year. Other local companies like Etsy, which went public in April 2015 (now worth $2 billion) and Warby Parker (worth $1.2 billion) have achieved so-called unicorn status – reaching a valuation of $1 billion or higher while still private.
 
Yext, whose last valuation in 2014 put them somewhere around the $525 million mark, could be in the running to be New York’s next unicorn, according to some.
 
For a company with so much potential – and in the current heady climate of private tech companies – the obvious question is whether an IPO is imminent. Yext recently hired Steven Cakebread, who guided both Salesforce and Pandora through their own IPOs, as CFO.
 
“Is it a destination on the horizon for us? I think most likely,” said Rohrs of an IPO. “But it’s something that we’re not going to feel rushed to do.”