FindTheBest Launches A Data-Driven Approach To The Classifieds

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FindTheBest, the startup led by DoubleClick co-founder Kevin O’Connor and backed by Kleiner Perkins’ sFund, has been trying to help consumers make the right decisions by giving them more, and better-structured, data. Now the company is bringing that strategy to a new market — classified ads.

“We think classified has a lot of room for improvement,” O’Connor says. “It’s a pretty scary process, and you never quite know what you’re buying.”

What’s really missing, he argues, is context. For example, if I were to go online and try to find a used car, I’d have to do a ton of research before I had any idea of what a reasonable price is, what kind of mileage I should be looking for, and so on. That’s where FindTheBest comes in. If you do a search in its classified listings, it brings up the results in its familiar grid, displaying the basic data so you can compare (in the car example) according to price, color, mileage, and so on.

Things get a little more interesting when you click on an individual item. You can see a sample listing an Audi A4 in the screenshot above. It shows you the average price, both for that specific year and make, and on a more general level, for all 2011 sedans. (So if the price is considerably higher than average, you’d better be getting something special.) There are charts highlighting some of the key specifications. And rather than forcing you to read a poorly written, randomly structured Craigslist description, FindTheBest automatically generates the description from the data. (So it starts, “This Used 2011 Audi A4 is listed for sale at $36,988, which is $2,410 more expensive than … “) O’Connor says this is a common theme at the company: “Creating narratives that take this factual information and put it into context.”

Similarly, an apartment listing can compare the rent with similar apartments in the same city, and a job listing can compare the salary to similar jobs. Of course, none of this data can completely guarantee that you won’t get ripped off. But it puts more data in consumers’ hands, in a way that feels helpful rather than overwhelming.

For now, FindTheBest is pulling the listings from several partners, and also getting more data from public sources. Eventually, O’Connor says it will probably add an option to post a listing directly to the site.