Decide Gets Opinionated: Smart-Shopping Site Pulls in Reviews

7/31/12Follow @curtwoodward

Decide, a Seattle startup that pores over tons of data to make money-saving shopping recommendations, is getting a little more picky.

Starting today, Decide will expand its data-based recommendations to include ratings on the quality of the products it analyzes. Decide arrives at it quality score—on a 100-point scale, ranging from “Don’t Buy It” to “We Love It”—by culling millions of online product reviews, from both experts and everyday users.

That’s a big addition to the previous Decide service, which was already pretty impressive stuff. As we’ve previously written, Decide uses advanced algorithms and search technology to predict when prices are going to change on a given product, and determine whether new models might be coming out soon.

The technical guts are supplied by a team with deep ties to the University of Washington, particularly Decide co-founder Oren Etzioni, a researcher who sold travel price-predicting startup Farecast to Microsoft a few years back.

At Decide, Etzioni and crew are trying to bring advanced data-sifting techniques to the masses once again. The price predictions are probably cool enough to your standard consumer, but the technology that hunts down rumors of new models of gadgets and other expensive items is perhaps even cooler.

That technology, called open information extraction, can sort through millions of Web pages and essentially speed-read them, culling valuable, searchable information from news reports and blog posts. So, if there are a bunch of reports out of Taiwan about a new iPhone model coming out, Decide can scan those sources and spit out a “wait” recommendation for people researching their next purchase.

(Apple probably wishes that feature wasn’t around—the tech titan recently blamed its slack quarterly earnings in part on consumers holding off their iPhone purchases for the next model.)

Now, Decide is putting that expertise to use in another way. The new “Decide Score” is intended to tell consumers whether a given product is good or bad—a quality rating, not just a price or availability score.

That’s a lot of new territory to cover. Decide does it by going over more than 200 terabytes of data from around the Web, including reviews from Amazon.com and Best Buy.

The startup is also expanding the types of products that are covered by its ratings. The company started out with TVs, laptops, and cameras, but it’s steadily added a long list of new products in both electronics and home appliances. Now, Decide will also rate sports and outdoor gear; lawn and garden products; and tools and hardware.

That’s a lot of shopping. And you should expect more: CEO Mike Fridgen has previously said Decide wouldn’t mind exploring the murky world of car prices someday. Decide has raised $8.5 million in venture financing from Madrona Venture Group, Maveron, and angel investors.

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

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