This one’s likely to have MG Siegler a little riled: VERSUS IO is a newly-launched comparison engine that puts the Samsung Galaxy S3 ahead of the iPhone 4S! But fanboy wars aside, the startup is an interesting proposition. Initially targeting buying decisions around smartphones and tablets, it eventually plans to apply its natural language comparison engine to an additional 640 verticals, including people — yes, people! — while its underlining technology is designed to be able to compare just about anything.
Even though comparison websites have been around almost forever, VERSUS IO reckons that they often suffer from what the company describes as “the same confused and uninviting data dump approach”. It aims to address this with an algorithm that employs natural language processing, and a better end-user interface.
As the site stands today, a user simply searches for two smartphone and/or tablet products, say the Samsung Galaxy Note versus the Google Nexus 7, using the provided text boxes and — bingo — the two products appear on screen depicted to scale, which works really well when comparing mobile devices. The engine then compares the two based on a pretty substantial list of criteria (screen size, battery size, support for various technology, number of available apps etc.), presented in a fairly easy to understand way. A ‘winner’ is then decided based on the number of pros e.g. thinner, more pixels. Of course, this sort of technical spec-driven approach only provides part of the picture and does little, for example, to advance the iOS versus Android debate.
However, users appear to like what they see. VERSUS IO claims 500k monthly uniques since it soft-launched in April, and is seeing 60% per month growth on average. Interestingly, it’s already available in 17 languages, including Chinese.
As for VERSUS IO’s future plans, those additional 640 vertical comparisons should see the light of day by summer 2013 and will include: Real Estate, Food, Credit Cards, TVs, Banks, Plastic Surgeons and Motorcycles, while the people comparison and ranking will be based on criteria such as popularity, friends, networks, their CVs, and college degrees, which could be kinda fun.
Another avenue for the company may be a B2B approach. Founder and CEO, Ramin G. Far, says that he’s already been talking with a number of organisations who are interested in using the technology for dating and recruitment. “We can suck in data from anywhere, analyse it and compare it – imagine where this could take us”, he says.
Far has an impressive CV too, including heading up MTV Online in Northern Europe. It perhaps should come as no surprise then to learn that the Berlin-based startup is already funded: €500k ($600k) from Hightech-Gruenderfonds and €200k ($240k) from JMES Investments.