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Why did Airbnb just buy Localmind? Local expertise

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Locals know best. That’s the new mantra of community-powered hotel alternative Airbnb and the primary reason behind its acquisition of two-year-old startup Localmind, an expert at connecting inquisitive travelers to locals in the know.

Airbnb announced today that it has acquired Localmind’s technology and team for an undisclosed sum. The deal closed earlier this year. Localmind creators Lenny Rachitsky, Beau Haugh, and Nelson Gauthier have already joined the Airbnb team to work on social initiatives.

Localmind is a small, seed-funded company from San Francisco that specializes in connecting people with questions about places to people who have the answers. The startup makes iPhone and Android applications to facilitate these location-based question-and-answer exchanges. It also connects to Foursquare and uses members’ check-in history to determine how knowledgeable they are about a particular venue — such as a bar, restaurant, conference hall, or gym.

Airbnb’s pickup may seem a bit peculiar at first. What does the company want with a little startup that makes Q&A apps? Simple. Local expertise. Airbnb, as we know, is currently investing its resources to help customers find the best neighborhoods when they travel.

In November, the four-year-old company launched a featured called Neighborhoods to help travelers select destinations that match their particular tastes. The Neighborhoods launch signaled its desire to rework its booking experience around these digital brochures and expose the knowledge its cultivated from locals with insights into the personalities and styles of their towns. Neighborhoods is only live for seven destination cities, but Airbnb has said it wants to introduce the feature to additional markets around the world.

Clearly, Airbnb views Localmind as a pivotal piece to understanding neighborhoods and better connecting its travelers to locals. A spokesperson said it can’t share specifics on how Localmind’s technology will be used, but it added that “connections to authentic, local experiences are foundational to Airbnb’s offering.”

“The role of social in travel is more important than ever,” Airbnb CEO and cofounder Brian Chesky said in a statement e-mailed to VentureBeat. “We’ve seen connections shape the experience for our community, so we’re excited to have the Localmind team join us and lead this next wave of social products.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Localmind application will remain operational, the Airbnb spokesperson said.

Photo credit: claydevoute/Flickr