Sparkbuy Adds Product Selection from Best Buy in Quest to Make Electronics Shopping as Powerful as Online Travel

4/20/11Follow @curtwoodward

Another day, another bit of news for Seattle-based online electronics shopping startups. This time, it’s Sparkbuy announcing that it will offer products from Richfield, MN-based Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) on its customizable search site, a big addition for a company that’s only been in the public eye for about two weeks. Sparkbuy, which already featured electronics like laptops and TVs from Amazon.com and Newegg, says the Best Buy addition gives it more than 3,000 items to peruse.

Sparkbuy Chief Executive Dan Shapiro, who previously founded mobile imaging startup Ontela (which merged with Photobucket), said access to Best Buy’s product lines would especially boost Sparkbuy’s selection of TVs, along with adding more laptops and tablets. Any Best Buy purchases made through Sparkbuy can be picked up in Best Buy stores, he said in a statement.

So why would consumers use Sparkbuy rather than just going straight to the big-name retailers? Shapiro’s bet is that current online electronics shopping is still not smart enough, sending shoppers to blunt-instrument Web search engines or scurrying between a bunch of retail sites with limited sorting functions.

Shapiro has said Sparkbuy was directly influenced by travel booking sites like Kayak and Expedia, allowing consumers to narrow their search for a laptop down by brand, price, and speed, for instance.

Sparkbuy’s news follows yesterday’s announcement that stealth-mode Seattle company Decide.com, co-founded by University of Washington professor and Internet search guru Oren Etzioni, had raised a $6 million Series B investment round. Decide hasn’t detailed what it’s doing, other than to say it will “bring unprecedented levels of transparency to electronics shopping.”

That makes Decide more heavily financed than Sparkbuy, which previously raised $1 million, led by Benaroya Ventures and Founder’s Co-op. But Sparkbuy is in the market first with a functioning product, and an affiliation with Best Buy, which has more than 1,000 retail stores nationwide, is nothing to sneeze at. Sparkbuy even got a nice quote to tout from Best Buy’s senior manager of platform business, Steve Bendt: “They make it dead simple to find the perfect product.”

So is Seattle suddenly an epicenter for next-generation online electronics shopping? It should be interesting to watch these companies jostle for position and build their businesses.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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