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Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake‘s newest start-up, Hunch, opens to the public today. It’s an advice service that helps you make decisions. It offers up a database of questions you can choose to ask, such as, say “Where should I eat around San Francisco?” Then, to tailor its answer to you, it ask you a series of questions, including what type of cuisine you prefer and what parts of the city you would be willing to go to for food. After about five to 10 questions, Hunch gives three suggestions plus a wild card answer based on your responses.

You can ask anything from “Is it OK to ask my co-worker on a date?” to “Which sorting algorithm should I use?” to “What new car should I buy?”

“Everything is user-generated. We didn’t come up with these questions from professional psychologists,” Fake said. “It’s similar to my work at Flickr in that Hunch uses intelligence and knowledge-sharing while still being fun.”

Hunch isn’t Fake’s first experience with online Q&A services, by the way. She previously worked for Yahoo on Yahoo Answers.

She said Hunch users have about an 80 percent satisfaction rate with their answers and the company is aiming to bring it to 90 percent as the community refines Hunch’s questions. If the user isn’t happy with their result, they can go back and edit the series of questions to produce better targeted suggestions for future users. About a fifth of Hunch’s users have been contributing or editing questions on the site. About 40,000 users have answered seven million questions since the company’s private launch in March.

The company plans to earn revenue through sponsored links and referrals. A user might see camera ads alongside Hunch’s suggestions if they are deciding what model to buy.

We had a good experience with the beta version of the service when we reviewed it back in March. But it’s certainly not the only site out there trying to serve up answers online. In addition to the dominant Yahoo Answers, competitors include Wiki Answers, Amazon’s Askville, LetSimonDecide, and Aardvark. Microsoft’s QnA site would be in the list, too, but it recently shut the service down.

With Hunch users choose from pre-existing questions and receive four crowd-sourced answers. Most of the rival services allow open-ended questions and unlimited answers from individual users. LetSimonDecide seems to be geared toward life choices; it has you input your own question along with a list of possible alternatives you’re considering. In Aardvark users ask questions through IM, and the service finds experts among their friends to give solutions.

Fake left Yahoo and came to Hunch last year, joining co-founders Chris Dixon and Tom Pinckney who created SiteAdvisor Inc.The New York-based company took a $2 million round of funding from Bessemer Venture Partners and General Catalyst Partners in February.


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