TrustYou grabs $5M to make sense of online reviews

TrustYou CEO Benjamin Jost

TrustYou, a Munich-based startup that makes semantic search technology for categorizing online reviews, has taken on $5 million in Series A funding to fuel its growth in the United States.

The company has not wasted any time spending its new cash: TrustYou has already put a significant portion of the funding round toward acquiring ReviewAnalyst, its Dallas-based competitor, in a deal to be announced on Tuesday. The Series A round was led by Credit Agricole Private Equity.

In an interview on Monday, TrustYou co-founder and CEO Benjamin Jost told me that the latest acquisition is a big part of the company’s larger strategy to aggressively grow in the U.S. market. “If you’re a European company that wants to expand into the U.S., it doesn’t always work by just opening an office and speaking English,” he said, adding that “different cultures and different backgrounds” mean that different countries require specific business practices. “ReviewAnalyst is the leader in this space of the industry in the U.S., so we can deliver great technology, they can focus on their customers in the U.S., and together we’ll try to rule this industry.”

TrustYou makes a platform that monitors travel review and social media sites across 10 different languages for content related to its clients in the hotel and restaurant industries. The platform uses the aggregated data to provide its clients with a “global review score” to help them determine how to target their advertising and marketing efforts. TrustYou, which was founded in 2008, is currently profitable and has a client list that includes Hard Rock Cafes, InterContinental Hotels, Best Western Hotels, and Omni Hotels. After its acquisition of ReviewAnalyst, the company will have 40 full-time employees.

But all that traction doesn’t mean that TrustYou can sit on its laurels. Its larger rivals include Radian6, which was acquired by Salesforce (s CRM) earlier this year, and Google Places.(s goog) A number of startups, such as Ness, for restaurant reviews, are similarly aiming to sift consumer sentiment out of the ever-increasing amount of user-generated content hosted on the Internet.

TrustYou claims that its edge lies partly in the fact it specializes solely on searching and cataloging the data that’s out there, rather than on hosting reviews itself. The company provides several open APIs to let review sites plug TrustYou’s aggregation into their own interfaces rather than trying to organize the data themselves. “The future is not about how to get reviews,” Jost said. “It’s in how to make sense of all the data.” And TrustYou clearly has its eye on being the market’s first choice for that very task.