Ann Arbor Startup MyFab5 Aims to Disrupt Yelp
MyFab5 co-founder Omeid Seirafi-Pour owns a house in Chicago, but when the startup bug bit him, he packed one suitcase and headed back to Ann Arbor, home of his alma mater, the University of Michigan. He had an idea, and it was directly related to his annoyance with the long-winded, often “negative just to hear myself talk” reviews that had come to dominate Yelp.
He and co-founder Calvin Schemanski, a U-M student, envisioned a site that offered Web-based rankings of restaurants and bars that did away with long reviews and instead focused on a “top 5″ for any category one could imagine, all organized by city and hashtag, which made for easy aggregating. MyFab5 was born.
Instead of depending on reviews from sources who may or may not be trustworthy, Seirafi-Pour says, MyFab5 users can feel confident that, since user consensus is involved, the site’s rankings are less subjective. On MyFab5, users rank up to five of their favorite places in any category, such as who has the best thin-crust pizza or margaritas. Users can rank establishments in existing categories or create their own. ”You don’t have to know what’s bad to know what’s great,” he explains. “I think the five-star system is flawed. We’re here to revolutionize reviews, which is actually one of the least innovative markets.”
MyFab5 officially soft-launched statewide in mid-November. Before that, Seirafi-Pour, Schemanski, and a team of developers spent a few months in the U-M student startup accelerator TechArb developing, iterating, and testing their product in the Ann Arbor market. Working through Google and FourSquare APIs, MyFab5 hopes to draw content providers by offering users a fast, easy-to-use, highly personalized digital mechanism by which to rank their favorite places to hang out. “On Yelp, it’s hard to compare things. Jimmy John’s can have four stars, but so can [upscale Ann Arbor restaurant] the Chop House.”
Seirafi-Pour points out that Yelp has it backwards—that it’s not about supplying reviews, but about consumer demand for reliable information. “It’s kind of like Heisman voting,” he adds. “Companies like Yelp focus on long reviews by elite Yelpers. We’re saying stop thinking about supply. It’s not about supply, it’s about demand, and what people demand is information to make a consumption-related decision.”
With the statewide launch, Shemanski says MyFab5 has incorporated features like the ability to share rankings on Facebook. A mobile app is also in the works. And while MyFab5′s core team of five work on getting the bugs out of its platform, they’re also seeking seed funding, and they’ve already begun meeting with investors.
“We’re confident in what we built,” Schemanski adds. “We’re just trying to get it out there and prove it. We’re hoping people get excited from the technical side, but also because it’s a cool story about U-M students starting a business and trying to stay local.”