Google is acquiring the Silicon Valley-based startup Clever Sense, both companies are announcing today. Clever Sense, as you may recall, is the maker of the mobile application “Alfred,” which delivers personalized recommendations for nearby restaurants, coffee shops, bars and nightclubs using a combination of artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Clever Sense team will be joining Google’s local services division immediately, the home to the business directory and reviews service Google Places.
According to Clever Sense CEO Babak Pahlavan, the company is beyond happy to be joining Google. “Happy doesn’t quite cut it,” he says. “This is an incredible opportunity for us and the team, and it’s amazing the way it’s happening.”
Which may actually mean: fast.
Only last week, the company was said to have been in talks with Groupon, although, not surprisingly, Pahlavan can’t comment on that report. He will say, however, that Google was simply a good fit for his company’s core vision. “Ultimately,” he says, “it was a question of how can we take this to a whole new level?” At Google, he says, the people there believe in the same vision. “They’ll allow us to work on this, but just make it bigger. Google is totally on the same page – it’s kind of scary how much,” he added.
So what was Clever Sense’s vision, then? Restaurants and other local venues (bars, clubs, etc.) were just the start. The company was also talking about using its technology to move into making deal recommendations next, like those from daily deal outlets such as Groupon and Living Social. But further down the road, the company saw itself as being able to recommend other things, like local activities, entertainment, and more. (A tie-in with Google Schemer, perhaps? Google won’t say.)
This idea of personalized recommendations speaks to Google’s vision of a “serendipity engine” something which Google’s Marissa Mayer has talked about in the past. She referred to Google’s vision of being able to surface “serendipitous” suggestions on mobile phones based on where you are. This year, she suggested that such a technology may emerge sometime within “a two-year horizon.”
With Clever Sense, however, that window may be narrowed. And ideally, Clever Sense, too, will be able to continue along its same path with access to more resources and Google’s scale.
Although Google has a history of acquiring technology companies then shutting down their existing products (see: Jaiku, Slide, Aardvark, etc.), a Google spokesperson says that the plan is to leave the Alfred app up-and-running for the “foreseeable future.” We can only hope.
The official statement to be published to the Clever Sense website reads:
When we embarked on our mission to curate the world around us, we knew we were taking on a huge challenge. We worked hard to build the Clever Sense Platform to tackle the problem of information overload in the real world. Using that platform, we built Alfred to create a simple, enjoyable and powerful way to discover new places and help make decisions on the go. It’s exciting to see that our passion turned into something people around the world use regularly to make everyday decisions that are just right for them.
Today, we are excited to join Google and start a new chapter in curating the world around us! Together with the Google team, we will accelerate our efforts toward this shared vision. Google helps local businesses connect with potential customers, and its worldwide presence can bring the value of Clever Sense to a much larger audience. Discovering local information is extremely important to both users and businesses, and the acquisition of Clever Sense will benefit both.
The journey has been nothing short of incredible. Our vision has only become bigger, and our commitment stronger. With Google and Clever Sense working together, our entire team looks forward to building more intelligent, serendipitous and magical services!
We didn’t achieve this success alone. We sincerely want to thank our users, investors, our amazing board and superb advisors. We will be your loyal fans for life.
Co-founder and CEO
Meanwhile, Google’s statement reads:
“The Clever Sense team is at the forefront of developing a recommendation engine that connects the online and offline worlds by delivering personal and sophisticated information to users at the right time, the right place and within the right context. By combining their technology and expertise with our team and products, we’ll be able to provide even more people with intelligent, personalized recommendations for places to eat, visit and discover.”