We just can’t get away from the social recommendations space, can we? Just this past month, we’ve seen new startups like Oink and Wikets arrive, and even a hilarious spoof of the trend via the fake startup Jotly. Well, now you can add another startup to the list, because today, a new social recommendations service for small businesses called BestVendor is opening its doors, too. And it already has $600,000 in seed funding from Peter Thiel, SVAngel, SoftBank Capital and Lerer Ventures to get things going.
Now launching into public beta, what BestVendor offers is a free, online directory of Web services, online applications and software specially designed for startups or other small businesses. Eventually, the site wants to become the go-to resource to find everything you need for your company.
What’s interesting about the way BestVendor operates, however, is its social component. The service requires that you sign in with your LinkedIn ID, so it automatically knows who’s in your network. Further down the road, it will add support for Facebook and Twitter, too, we’re told.
BestVendor requires that you recommend three products at sign up, in order to kick start its database of recommendations. In its pre-launch state, the service already has 3,500 products on hand and allows you to add others as need be. While browsing the site, you can continue to click on products you’ve used to build your list of recommended apps and services.
You can filter through the community’s recommended applications by category (design, development, finance, sales, etc.) or by people or company. By default, BestVendor shows you all the recommendations from its user base either as a list of users (the People tab) or businesses (the Companies tab), but for a more personal slice of the aggregated data, you can choose to filter this list so it only shows recommendations from your LinkedIn network. And you can further refine the recommendations by industry (e.g., Finance, Government, Health, etc.) using the left-hand navigation.
There are dozens of other little features that make the site pleasurable to use and instantly addictive, like the “cool fact” sidebar that shows the top 5 recommended apps for any given industry list, the “request a note” feature that lets you initiate conversations around the products in question, and the little “I use this buttons” that like you both like an item and see how many others use that app, too.
There’s no gimmick here, like on BestVendor’s consumer-focused counterparts, Oink and Wikets, for example, which respectively promise either “cred” or gift cards for your participation. Instead, the reward in using BestVendor comes from the value the site itself delivers – being able to see what your colleagues use, have used and recommend in terms of work-related apps. That’s kind of a reward in and of itself. Even as a heavy Web service user myself, BestVendor was able to recommend a thing or two I’d now like to try, which surprised me.
The only drawback to the site is the manual labor required to fill the database. But those “I use this buttons” are just so darned clickable. The recommendations come easily.
BestVendor’s business model will eventually encompass affiliate listings, referrals, product reselling and enhanced vendor listings that offer videos and screenshots.
Along with Jeff Giesea, BestVendor’s other co-founders include Ben Zhuk and Magnus von Koeller. The team began work on the product in January 2011, but didn’t start on it full time until May, when Zhuk and von Koeller completed their classes at Columbia Business School. By June, BestVendor had their first round of seed funding, and the company plans to close its Series A next March.