Tupalo logoFinland’s biggest directory service Fonecta has made an undisclosed “strategic” investment into social yellow pages service Tupalo.com, run by an Austrian startup. Finland marks the beginning of the service’s Scandinavian expansion. For Fonecta, this is a step into getting involved with social media technologies for directory services. Tupalo’s service has now also been launched in Finnish.

Tupalo lists all basic yellow page data like businesses’ addresses (with Google Maps visuals), contact details, and website addresses, but also user-generated content like user reviews, ratings, favorites lists, and photos (fetched from Flickr using tags). There are also social networking features like creating an own friends list and feeds on what your friends are recommending. The service can as such be used by both locals and visitors to a city, sharing opinions on the best restaurants, clubs, shops, etc.

Tupalo screenshotThe local search space is quite competitive, though, with lots of local, regional, and global players. Getting enough local points-of-interest to make the service interesting to start with, and acquiring the critical mass to the community for the user generated features to work are huge tasks.

The new partnership will mean that Fonecta’s directory data will also become available at Tupalo’s service with the social layer on top. Tupalo has used a clever expansion and internationalization strategy, establishing an international foothold in different countries by seeking out directory service partners as investors. Prior to Fonecta, Tupalo has previously gotten strategic investments from Austria’s leading publisher of yellow page data and directories HEROLD Business Data, pan-European local search and lead generation company European Directories, and Data partner PKT (Poland’s leading yellow pages provider). This way the service’s directory coverage has grown quickly.

Fonecta has been acquiring some small firms in the mobile and web space over the past years to renew their service offering, and now they apparently found a good opportunity to finally experiment with social media, getting access to the proper resources and existing technology through Tupalo. It does makes sense to cooperate with a startup, and not to try to build a “social” service of its own in-house — avoiding some pitfalls demonstrated by a few other incumbents. Fonecta seems to still be a bit cautious about social services, though, mentioning being worried (in Finnish) that some businesses in the social directory might get mocked by users…still some culture changes ahead I guess.