EBay Buys Price-Predicting Startup Decide, Adds to Seattle Office

9/6/13Follow @curtwoodward

Updated 11:35 am Pacific
One of Seattle’s best-pedigreed tech startups is joining a big name in the industry. Decide, a price-forecasting service formed by veterans of the Farecast team, has been acquired by online shopping giant eBay for an undisclosed sum.

Decide’s team “will be making the move to eBay’s new Seattle-area offices,” CEO Mike Fridgen wrote in a blog post on the deal. EBay opened its office in the Seattle suburbs last year, following the lead of many Bay Area tech companies on the hunt for talent (the eBay office is actually relocating from Redmond to Bellevue).

As part of the acquisition, Decide will shut down its consumer service Sep. 30.

One key person not joining eBay is Decide co-founder Oren Etzioni, a longtime University of Washington professor and expert in data analysis and artificial intelligence. He’s already got another gig—Etzioni was just announced as head of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s new artificial intelligence initiative.

“The Decide team is the most talented startup team I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. Many of them are UW graduates, and the VCs (and angels) were largely from Seattle—so it’s a real Seattle story,” Etzioni says. [Added Etzioni quote.]

EBay says the Decide team will develop services that give both sellers and buyers better insights into pricing, which would theoretically help make more deals happen—and, eBay hopes, give it a leg up in its e-commerce battle with Amazon.

An acquisition always seemed likely for Decide, which used advanced prediction algorithms to tell shoppers when prices on retail goods were expected to rise or drop in the near future. It did so by considering factors like pricing history and news of upcoming new models, and even offered price-prediction guarantees to back up its work.

This always helped Decide stand apart from the long list of relatively simple price-tracking startups out there, which tended to focus more on scraping Web data to give shoppers an up-to-the-minute ticker on prices.

Decide not only went a step further by predicting price moves, it also added review data to the mix to help consumers make shopping decisions based on quality. And it rapidly expanded its product coverage from an initial focus on tech items to include categories like babies and kids, appliances, and home and garden.

On the business side, Decide went from offering a totally free service to asking for consumer subscriptions for its full suite of features. At the time, Fridgen said this was done to keep the company separate from advertisers, who would potentially have problems with any less-than-positive information about products and make consumers doubt whether the advice was on the money.

That made Decide a lot more like a futuristic version of Consumer Reports, the venerable buying-advice magazine. I have no idea how well the subscription model was doing, though an acquisition could mean it was taking too long to become a standalone business—especially with the key fall shopping season coming up quickly.

Decide had raised about $17 million in venture financing, with hometown VCs Vulcan Capital, Madrona Venture Group, and Maveron writing the checks. The latest infusion came in March, an $8 million round led by Vulcan.

So all in all, not a bad week for Paul Allen—he gets a new boss for his AI push, and sells a company. If we get any word on the price, we might have a better idea if the region’s startup scene could also benefit from the addition of some new angel investors. AllThingsD notes that eBay executives described the price as “not large enough to require disclosure in a SEC filing.”

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

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • Diana

    To clarify. eBay opened its first office in Redmond in November 2004.