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Mobile Communications

Reverse phone look-up app Truecaller adds Yelp data to get Americans on board

Let's be honest: Not many people use their smartphones to make actual calls anymore. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat are taking over as our primary means of communication. But Truecaller, a Sweden-based mobile directory of sorts, is giving phone numbers some social features.

Truecaller is a reverse phone look-up app for iOS and Android that's hugely popular overseas, particularly in India. The service has grown from 10 million to 45 million users in the last year. It's most useful for people who get a lot of unwanted calls--the app crowdsources information from the Truecaller community, so users can mark numbers as spam and warn others. Truecaller is now taking on America with an update that adds Yelp integration.

"The whole idea behind [Truecaller] is making it more social, a community-based service where people can update and add information, connect a phone number to a Facebook profile or LinkedIn," Truecaller CEO Alan Mamedi said.

The partnership with Yelp adds business listings to Truecaller, so users can look up a company, find a phone number, read Yelp reviews, and see how many of their contacts have that business saved in their address book.

Truecaller also started working with Twitter in December, so users in India can look up a phone number and find the Twitter account associated with it. You can follow or tweet to a user straight from Truecaller. It's unclear when that Twitter integration will roll out to U.S. users.

"We've been holding off before on doing a bigger U.S. push," Mamedi said. "In November we went to San Francisco and met Yelp and Twitter. What we really found interesting was Yelp is also built on crowdsourcing. We have really good data coverage when it comes to people search, but we lacked business search. With Yelp, we'll be able to identify numbers and find businesses and add their crowdsourcing data into the app itself."

Truecaller has free and premium services. You can block a spam number for free, but to search for a person's phone number or name and send them a contact request requires a subscription. People can only find you in the app if you allow them to in your privacy settings.

Mamedi said Truecallers in different countries use the app in different ways. In Russia, for instance, Truecaller users are looking for a way to search for a license plate and find a person's number. Why? To tell parking offenders to move their cars. That probably wouldn't be a great use case in the States, which is why Yelp integration could help the app establish a foothold here.

Truecaller is also getting a little help with its U.S. expansion plans in the form of $18.8 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital.

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