Here at D I got a chance to talk with Perry Evans, a mapping and local search entrepreneur who is working on a new company called Aptas. Aptas is working to re-structure yellow pages data to make local search more relevant. The company is partnering with several yellow pages companies (Dex, for example) to bring a new kind of local search site to market, and Evans makes a pretty convincing case as to why Yahoo, IAC, Google, et al don’t necessarily have the market sewed up. He also makes a good case as to why the yellow pages still matter (I certainly have written them off from time to time).
For one, he points out that most yellow pages companies are now owned by LBO/private equity firms, and therefore have access to very deep pockets and a very real desire to leverage the yellow pages’ assets into new, high growth markets. Clearly, local search is such a market. In other words, the yellow pages are no longer run by sclerotic RBOC managers, but rather rapacious financiers looking to take their properties public, and to do that, they need a growth story.
Secondly, Evans points out that there are plenty of ways to find distribution beyond the portals – including and especially mobile. In other words, just because we go to Yahoo Local now, does not mean we will in the future, especially if someone has a better solution. Evans claims to be working on such a solution, and expects to roll it out (in partnership with Dex) this Fall. He’s also working on combining local search and web with 411/information over cel phones. Sign me up for that.