Townsquared, a private, community-based social network for small business owners, announced Tuesday that it is acquiring the messaging platform Voo.
Townsquared has operated mostly under the radar since its founding in 2013 by Rohit Prakash and Nipul Patel, longtime friends who were both the children of immigrant families who owned small businesses.
The service Townsquared offers is similar to Nextdoor, the private social community that lets neighborhood residents connect with one another online and share information. Townsquared does just that, except for businesses and their communities.
Small business owners using Townsquared gain access to something akin to a private discussion board, where they can alert neighboring businesses about things like supplier issues, rent increases, shoplifters, and local ordinances and taxes. They can discuss local politics and minimum wage concerns, post classifieds, recommend accountants and marketing techniques, or plan community events and shop shares.
With this acquisition, Townsquared said it wants to create a sort of Slack for small businesses, in which platform integrations would allow business owners to do things like schedule employees, manage inventory and, eventually, order supplies.
Voo CEO Chris Turlica said the idea is to give give small business owners some relief from the hodgepodge of tech used to handle daily operations.
"Townsquared's small business members face similar challenges both on the customer end and with their employees," Turlica said. "Their customers review them on Yelp and Facebook. Their staff each communicate using a different platform and use a variety of tools to make important work decisions. Small business owners need to aggregate all that information in a single place to make smart decisions about their livelihoods."
Townsquared does not charge users for membership, nor does it allow any advertising or soliciting of products on the site. In other words, the company's profitability are unclear -- but the Voo acquisition could help to change that. As mentioned above, Townsquared wants to use Voo's platform to help businesses coordinate group purchasing, which is a key element to the site's monetization strategy.
Townsquared's footprint is relatively light, but the founders are confident the platform can scale to help connect small businesses in neighborhoods across the country. The company said it has more than doubled its membership over the past year and is now live in more than 500 neighborhoods across San Francisco, Oakland, New York City, Seattle, and Portland. In the near term, Townsquared said it plans to expand into cities such as Boston, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, and Miami.
As for Voo, both its staff and technology portfolio will merge with Townsquared, and its consumer facing apps will shut down within a month.
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