Daily deals platform Group Commerce buys Socialight

Exclusive: Group Commerce, a New York City-based company that sells a software platform to let publishers host their own daily deal applications, has acquired geo-location startup Socialight.

The Socialight team and technology will be put toward fleshing out Group Commerce’s mobile strategy, Group Commerce CEO Jonty Kelt and Socialight founder Dan Melinger told me in a joint interview this week. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

Group Commerce was founded in early 2010 by Kelt, David Rosenblatt and Andrew Glenn, all of whom are former Google (s GOOG) and DoubleClick executives. The company has raised $18 million in venture capital to date, and currently has a staff of 85 people. It expects to have 100 employees by year end.

While daily deals sites such as Groupon and Living Social serve audiences they have built up themselves, Group Commerce provides a white-label platform to let publishing brands target deals to their existing readerships. Currently, Group Commerce powers daily deals applications for Hearst Magazines, The New York Times (s NYT), Daily Candy (s CMCSA), Thrillist, and others. As Kelt told me,

“When we saw the emergence of this group buying deals market, we were struck by how big it was so quickly, and by how perfect it was for publishers and media companies to participate in. There are three things required for success in that industry: an audience, deals and technology know-how. Publishers have audiences and sales forces to source deals, and we have the know-how and technology to stitch it all together.”

The Socialight acquisition will power Group Commerce’s forthcoming mobile-focused products, Kelt said. “Thus far we’ve been very focused just on the web experience. At one point we were recruiting for good mobile leadership and developers, but then we came across [Socialight founder] Dan Melinger and his team and we had a meeting of the minds.” In particular, the Socialight team will work on incorporating location-aware features to Group Commerce’s mobile offerings.

Melinger, who founded Socialight in 2005, said he and his team are looking forward to working within a larger firm that still has a startup vibe. “When we were looking at the next steps for our company we talked to a lot of [potential buyers], both public and private,” he said. Ultimately, he decided that the idea of selling to a larger public company to “rest and vest” was unattractive. “I’m the kind of guy that can’t rest, and I just want to get to the next level. Group Commerce is a really strong startup, and I think we’re on the cusp of something really huge.”

Learn more about the intersection between location, mobile and commerce at the Mobilize conference, coming up on Sept. 26 and 27 in San Francisco.