Decide Raises $8 million To Expand to ‘All E-Commerce Categories’

3/22/13Follow @bromano

Decide.com, the company that uses big data to help consumers buy smarter, is about as Seattle as it gets right now in tech, having just closed an $8 million Series C funding round led by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital.

Decide combines Seattle’s legacy strength in e-commerce with big data, an emerging cluster here, to aggregate product reviews, forecast the arrival of new models, and predict prices ala Farecast—now Bing Travel—which Decide co-founder and UW Computer Science Professor Oren Etzioni sold to Microsoft about five years ago.

Vulcan is joined in this round by Decide’s existing investors, marquee Seattle venture firms Madrona and Maveron. Total venture funding now stands at $17 million. As part of the funding deal, Decide adds to its board of directors Vulcan’s Steve Hall and Dawn Lepore, the former Drugstore.com CEO who has held seats on the boards of major retailers including eBay and Walmart.

The fresh capital will allow Decide to move into “all e-commerce categories,” the company says in a release, and to continue hiring in an increasingly competitive environment, particularly in the area of data science. Decide has 30 employees and four immediate job openings.

The company already covers some 1.6 million individual products in 72 categories, from chainsaws to espresso machines to motherboards. Its ratings and predictions are distilled from 230 terabytes of data—roughly equivalent to about 9,420 Blu-ray movies.

“Decide is becoming the one place consumers can trust for unbiased, data-driven advice about what to buy and when to buy it,” CEO Mike Fridgen says in a statement announcing the funding.

That mission—along with the Decide’s decision last year to reject ads in favor of a subscription model—makes Decide look more and more like a competitor to Consumer Reports, the venerable nonprofit product testing and rating nonprofit. Granted, the two go about the business of rating products in totally different ways, and Decide is distinguished by its price predictions (which it backs up with a price guarantee).

Incidentally, my family just replaced our washer and dryer, and used Consumer Reports and the free Decide Scores to help identify the best brands and models. They were largely in agreement, particularly on the top performers, which was reassuring. (We didn’t pony up for a $30/year Decide membership to try to time the purchase, however, because with a baby, it’s not like you can wait for the best price on new laundry equipment.)

One thing I didn’t find from either Decide or Consumer Reports is some measure of how a big appliance like this might perform in the future—though I suppose that may be reflected in measures of brand reputation. Most of the reviews I saw—the raw material from which Decide crunches its scores—are from people who bought a particular model in the last year or so. They reflect the initial experience, but don’t tell me how well it’s going to hold up over thousands of loads of laundry.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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