Centzy, a local search engine which provides prices, reviews, hours, and ratings for nearby businesses, is today announcing its availability in the top 10 metro areas across the United States. When the service launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in May 2012, it offered 30,000 business listings in 3 major markets. Now it has over 300,000 local businesses on its site, across NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, L.A., Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, Washington, D.C. and Boston.
To some extent, Centzy competes with business listing giants like Google and Yelp, for example, but what makes the company unique is how it goes after the detailed business info others don’t have. 90 percent of Centzy’s data is not available anywhere else online, because the business in question never put that data online to begin with. This is an especially helpful service for smaller businesses which have never gotten around to launching a web page, or providing their business details to a service like Yext, for example.
So to get at the info only the business knows – like how much a salon charges for a hair cut or manicure – Centzy uses a proprietary crowdsourcing platform that extends its reach beyond what its web crawler can find. Initially, the company tried using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, but found the data wasn’t accurate enough. So it built its own, in-house system instead.
“Our system manages a large pool of agents that we’ve hired, and we contact businesses one-by-one,” explains Centzy CEO Jay Shek. “The benefits of that, is that our data is extremely accurate and comprehensive,” he says. “And because we’ve built this management system that targets different cities, we’ve been able to scale it out really, really fast.”
Scaling Yelp, in comparison, was more of a challenge, because it relies on user-submitted data. Centzy, meanwhile, is largely automated in its data collection practices – getting the initial business data for a new location, before adjusting or correcting it, takes about a week. However, it’s worth pointing out that Centzy is not focused on all business categories at present. For example, it ignores restaurants and bars because that market is already saturated, says Shek.
Currently, Centzy includes listings across seventeen business categories, all within larger verticals like “health and beauty” (e.g., salons, nail salons, spas, waxing, tanning, etc.). Over 50 percent of its listings fall within the health and beauty category at present, but the company is now working to expand more into home, car, personal and pet care verticals. “We basically specialize in anything that you would consider an errand you need to run,” Shek explains.
Since launch, Centzy’s traffic has grown seven-fold over the past six months, driven by mobile growth. Immediately after its debut, mobile accounted for 30 percent of traffic, and now it’s 60 percent. The company is often ranked highly on Google for local business search results, which sends users to the website or mobile-optimized site for the service. Though Shek declined to provide exact figures, Centzy is seeing “hundreds of thousands of uniques” per month.
Once on the site, users can see the businesses plotted on a Google Maps interface, and can sort listings by price, distance and value – the latter a combination of price and quality scores. (Centzy features ratings and reviews from Yelp and CitySearch). And within a broader search like “hair salons” users can also filter for specific services the businesses offer – like coloring, blowouts, cut, extensions, etc. An average price for that service also appears, to give a general sense of what things like that cost in that given location.
Going forward, the focus is on expanding Centzy nationwide – a target it expects to meet by year-end. In fact, there is some limited data already indexed for areas outside the top 10 cities listed above, which you can find by googling for a business type and your zip code. At some point in the future, the company may do an app instead of just a mobile website, or work on integrating with Yext, but for now, all attention is on broadening coverage both by geography and business category.
Centzy is backed by $825,000 in seed funding from ff Venture Capital, Lightbank, and others.