NearbyNow Gets $12 Million To Fund Mobile Search, Shopping Expansion

Scott Dunlap, CEO of NearByNearbyNow has secured $11.75 million in a Series C funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners (NVP). The Los Altos, Calif.-based service lets shoppers find and reserve products online before they head to the mall, then sends confirmations, coupons and other deals to their mobile phones.

Launched in late 2006, NearbyNow has added nearly 200 malls in two dozen states to its roster and is closing in on the 1 billion mark in terms of products--including apparel, jewelry, and electronics--in its database. The growth caught the attention of investment firms, according to NearbyNow CEO Scott Dunlap. "After a fabulous holiday season, we were able to pick from over a dozen firms to find the one that we felt had the right experience with the Web, mobile and retail," he said.

Dunlap said the company chose to go with NVP, in part, because of Venture Partner Joshua Goldman. Goldman, who will join NearbyNow's board of directors, is the former president and CEO of mySimon, a comparison-shopping engine. Goldman also served on the board of Ask.com when it was AskJeeves. "Josh has a solid understanding of trends in search, comparison shopping and local stores," Dunlap said. "His vision of what we could do moving forward was right in line with ours."

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And NearbyNow's forward progress in the near-term includes the rollout of a dedicated application for iPhone users and a partnership with comparison-shopping engine TheFind.com.

The iPhone application lets owners of the handset navigate through a shopping center on screen, search a particular store's product inventory and find sales. Retailers will also have the option to send enhanced contextual ads to NearbyNow users on the iPhone, as the service currently transmits special discount info via SMS messages.

Dunlap said that the company noticed a spike in iPhone user activity and did research to find out the demographics behind them. "We found that iPhone users were the ideal audience for retailers to target while they were in the mall. They have a little over 40% more discretionary income than the average phone owner," Dunlap said. "They're often more willing to pay list price for items."

Partnering with TheFind.com is a way to give online shoppers the option to buy locally. Browsers will find a button that allows them to search local inventories for products, reserve it and then pick up. The deal includes over 30,000 store locations from TheFind.com's more than 200 retailer partners.

"Online shopping trends show that there are a ton of people that would like to buy an item within 24 hours," Dunlap said. "So we're just taking the inventory data we've been collecting, sharing it with partners like TheFind and potentially doubling the size of the comparison-shopping industry."

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