Goby Bought by TeleNav; Watkins and Team to Keep Working on Location-Based Content

Another Boston-area software startup has been snapped up by a West Coast power. Sunnyvale, CA-based TeleNav (NASDAQ: TNAV), a location-based services firm, said today it has completed an acquisition of Boston-based Goby, a local and travel search startup that has recently focused on mobile apps. Terms of the deal weren’t given. (The news was buried on the Friday before Labor Day, which makes people wonder how good an outcome it is.)

“The team here will continue, and we will be adding more people,” says Mark Watkins, Goby’s co-founder and CEO. Ten employees of Goby are joining TeleNav and staying in Boston, he says. Watkins, a veteran of Parametric Technology and Endeca, will have a new title at TeleNav: general manager of entertainment content.

Watkins didn’t comment on how good a deal it is for Goby and its investors. (The company raised $7.5 million from investors including Kepha Partners and Flybridge Capital Partners.) He stressed that the acquisition is “a good fit” and that the two companies have “complementary applications and audiences.” He also said his team will continue to support the Goby apps (for iPhone and Android devices), which help consumers discover events and activities near them.

Meanwhile, TeleNav is known for its GPS-based navigation applications that compete with Garmin and TomTom; the firm’s mobile apps have about 24 million subscribers. Watkins’s team will be working on new projects for TeleNav, but the companies aren’t saying much about that yet. We can surmise that it will be about generating and organizing location-based content on mobile devices, though.

Goby started in 2008 as an activity search engine with “deep Web” technology. Watkins told me back in May that the startup was pursuing a couple of revenue models based on advertising, and was looking to raise more money later this year. Whatever the terms of the TeleNav acquisition, they must have outweighed the prospect of raising more venture money to acquire more customers.

“The biggest challenge for us has always been, how do we get to scale? We’re coming up on a million downloads, but the mission is how to get to tens of millions,” Watkins says. “It’s a real challenge to reach a massive scale of audience, to build any type of consumer business.”

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