ChoiceVendor launches Yelp-for-business services, acquires VendorCity

There’s a new site launching today called ChoiceVendor that’s bringing the user-review system that Yelp mastered for restaurants and other local businesses to a new market — business services like accounting and web design.

The ChoiceVendor site has been live for several months, but it’s officially emerging from beta testing today. It’s also announcing the acquisition of competing site VendorCity.

The problem, said founder and chief executive Yan-David Erlich, is that if you’re a business and you’re looking to hire a service provider, you don’t have a lot of information to guide your decision. You might ask colleagues or other businesses for recommendations, but then you’d probably just end up with a list of companies to investigate.

So in the same way that Yelp lets you tap into a big pool of reviews, ChoiceVendor allows businesses to access a database of reviews for service providers. The site has listings and reviews in 70 categories, but the company says the most popular ones include the previously mentioned accountants and web designers, plus payroll, search engine marketing, and business legal services.

Many of the initial reviews are posted with the encouragement of the service providers, Erlich said. When they’ve finished a job for a customer, they can ask that customer to review them. ChoiceVendor does some checking to ensure that the service provider isn’t just amassing reviews from, say, their family members. But that’s just the start — reviewers will often go beyond the service provider who asked for a review. If they were invited to review their accountant, they might also decide to stick around and review other people they’ve worked with, like a PR firm or an IT administrator. Erlich said there’s one early user who has already written 70 reviews, because she has spent her whole life choosing vendors and was eager to show off her expertise.

Besides the target audience and the businesses profiled, there’s one other big difference between ChoiceVendor and Yelp. ChoiceVendor will never charge businesses for a sponsored listing on the site — a practice that has gotten Yelp into some trouble, with a few businesses accusing the site of offering to delete negative reviews if they pay for a sponsorship. Users need to believe that ChoiceVendor reviews are completely trustworthy, Erlich said.

“If we manage to create this community, there’s tons of ways we can make money,” Erlich said, though he didn’t offer any details.

Until now, ChoiceVendor has focused on listings in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. And its new acquisition, VendorCity, had built out a number of listings in Boston — so the San Francisco-based company now has a presence there, too.

ChoiceVendor is has raised $4.5 million from Battery Ventures, where Erlich was an entrepreneur in residence.