Kevin O’Connor, who sold his online ad company DoubleClick to Google for $3.1 billion, is back with another ambitious startup. As the name implies, FindTheBest is supposed to provide a structured way for visitors to “find the best” college, smartphone, ski resort, or pretty much anything else they can think of.
While there are already informational sites focusing on popular topics like restaurants, FindTheBest is all about the “long tail” of subjects that haven’t attracted as much startup attention but are still useful to compare. So if you look at the “comparison app” for Android smartphones, you see a chart with pricing, screen size, features, and more.
The layout might remind you of Google Squared, an experimental product that delivered often-hilariously inaccurate results in spreadsheet format. The difference, O’Connor said, is that FindTheBest doesn’t build its comparison spreadsheets using an algorithm — instead, it’s paying people to do it. Users can also add listings, but they must be approved by the company before they appear on the site. That approach seems to have paid off. I spent some time browsing the FindTheBest site this afternoon, and most of the charts seemed to have genuinely useful information, and they lacked any obvious gaffes.
As with any human-powered product, there are questions about whether FindTheBest can grow quickly and affordably. O’Connor said he had similar concerns when he founded the company, but he found that it’s easier for someone to build a comparison app than he expected. FindTheBest, which launched six weeks ago, already has more than 400 apps. The goal is to create 1,000 by the end of the year, O’Connor said, with a focus on products or services that people pay for (which should be easier to monetize, when the time comes).
The site just rolled out some new features, too. Listings like the smartphone app now include “expert reviews”, where FindTheBest pulls in and averages professional reviews. (O’Connor said he’d like to add user reviews at some point, but he still needs to figure out how to prevent companies from flooding the site with positive ratings for their product and negative ratings for their competitors.) The site also added visualizations, so that the sometimes dense-looking spreadsheets can be supplemented with graphs, charts, and maps. The top colleges, for example, can now be shown on a map of the United States.
FindTheBest is self-funded and based in Santa Barbara, Calif. O’Connor was recently interviewed by The New York Times about how he hires employees for FindTheBest.