Apple Reportedly Pays 'Tens of Millions' for Canadian Startup

Apple has taken a rare dip into the Canadian market by acquiring Toronto-based startup Locationary.

The Globe and Mail reported that a source is indicating the deal is worth “multiple tens of millions.” The purchase is believed to be Apple’s first in Canada in the last decade.

Showing up at a local pub only to find the doors locked shut after Google or Apple maps directed one there can be frustrating. Locationary helps prevent issues like that. It’s a crowd-sourced location data company that focuses on local business listings. The venture-funded company has raised seed money from Extreme Venture Partners and Plazacorp Ventures. Since 2009 the number is thought to be around $2.5 million in funding.

All Things D was the first to report the story this morning and called Locationary a kind of “Wikipedia for local business listings.” The startup uses crowdsourcing and a federated data exchange platform called Saturn, which is designed to make it easy for companies to easily exchange information of local businesses. This includes hours of operations, products, pricing, job postings and more. Apple’s new purchase should come in handy while solving online mapping’s challenges of constantly updating out-of-date information.

Crowdsourced information from the likes of Saturn ensures that not only will the searched-for pub be located where Apple said it would be, but it will still open at that point in time, minimizing a user’s chance of walking up to a pub closed down for renovations.

The acquisition revolves around Apple’s notable switch from Google maps to Apple maps in 2012 when iOS 6 came out. The move drew widespread criticism after Apple failed to deliver on standard services that users had come to expect, like public transportation information. Apple maps was labeled as inaccurate, prone to glitches and generally inferior. Some users even found an airport in their neighbourhood, according to the app. The blunder forced CEO Tim Cook to issue an apology and a promise to improve the technology over time.

Massive acquisitions of this type come as a result of many factors, like product and market validity and how the space is set to evolve. In this case Locationary also had contextual factors on their side: their product immediately fits a missing piece to one of Apple’s foremost challenges, improving their mapping service.

Locationary came to Apple’s attention when CEO Grant Richie wrote an opinion piece for Techcrunch following the iOS 6 maps blunder. Among five points, he suggested that aggregating location data is hard, and Apple ought to consider licensing third-party sources. He also suggested that aggregating business information is even harder than location data. Thus, Apple would need specialized databases on specific verticals (which is specifically where the acquisition came into play).  

Apple evidently took his suggestions seriously and what eventually resulted was today’s reported purchase. According to Techcrunch, Locationary has “plowed through 5.61 billion data fields, managing 175 million profiles across 253 feeds and repositories.”

Google and other players haven’t stood idle while Apple improves its service. Google’s recent $1.1 billion acquisition of Waze as well as frequent upgrades are keeping it as strong a player as any, while even Nokia is reportedly interested in entering the space.


Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Locationary is changing how local data is collected and verified. Currently, mobile apps and search engines rely on local data licensed from aggregators that copy most of the information from yellow page directories. This process is expensive and results in stale data typically 12-18 months old. Locationary believes that only a global army of locals dedicated to data verification can keep this... more

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Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk is a freelance reporter currently based in Montreal. more

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