Judy’s Book Relaunched Under “New” Ownership, with Focus on Customer Reviews

When TechCrunch served up a headline yesterday saying Seattle startup Judy’s Book was “Back from the Dead,” I thought there might actually be some news. The same day, John Cook at TechFlash posted a much more informative story about the current state of the online reviews-and-shopping company, which was founded by Andy Sack and Chris DeVore in 2004 and had raised $10.5 million from Ignition Partners, Mobius Venture Capital, and others, before closing in late 2007.

For the record, though, the Judy’s Book site never completely went away. And nothing of note actually happened with it this week. (TechCrunch may have just noticed the site was live—the media works in strange ways.) The company has been under new ownership since early March, when it was bought by Geoff Entress, formerly of Madrona Venture Group, and Andy Liu and David Niu of Seattle-based BuddyTV. The three investors, who happen to be limited partners in Sack and DeVore’s seed-stage fund, Founder’s Co-op, make up the Judy’s Book board of directors. Sack and DeVore are not involved.

I spoke with Entress yesterday to get his take on the company, which currently has one full-time employee and several outsourced positions. Entress and his partners re-launched the site about two months ago. “We thought it was a real gem, and it was a shame for it to go away,” says Entress. “We refocused the site away from [retail] deals and back to reviews, where it had been…We’re running it very leanly. It’s cash flow neutral or positive on a monthly basis. The hope is we can grow it.”

What Judy’s Book had, and still has going for it, is a loyal user base, says Entress. The site lets users post and receive referrals and recommendations for local restaurants, stores, dentists, and other services—which is more like the original vision of Sack and DeVore, and similar to Yelp and other review sites. “It had a substantial amount of traffic, and we’ve been able to keep that,” says Entress. According to Compete.com, Judy’s Book had roughly 153,000 unique visitors in September—much less than Yelp (which has something like 17 million), but respectable nonetheless.

The business model will remain advertising-based, at least for the time being, says Entress. His team is busy working on some new features which he couldn’t say much about yet, though he did say they’ve been “encouraging members to create ‘favorite’ and ‘worst’ lists.” “It will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary,” Entress says.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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