Dave McClure Backed Comparison Engine, VERSUS IO, Adds Social Layer So Fans (& Fanboys) Can Chime In

Versus IO, a natural-language powered consumer electronics product comparison engine that’s now getting some three million unique visits per month and growing at a monthly average of 34%, has added a social layer — so users can chip in their perspective on why the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a better phone than the iPhone 5s (or vice versa).

Versus launched its comparison engine in July last year. The Berlin-based startup’s total funding is $3.8 million, which includes seed backing from Hightech-Gruenderfonds and JMES Investments, followed by Dave McClure’s 500 Startups putting in $100k last year, and then a $2.8 million Series A led by Earlybird Venture Capital in May.

Versus’ new social layer, which it’s calling Vegas, is launching in beta today. It extends the specs-based comparisons the startup was already offering by letting users submit their own pro & cons for products. Those are then ranked/filtered via a Reddit-style voting system — aimed at enabling majority options to rise to the top.

Versus Vegas

Why is a social layer valuable? For one, because nothing is so subjective as gadget preference — as the fervent fanboy armies underline — but also because specs don’t tell the whole story, and users are of course best placed to say what’s great about a product in practice, and what’s not.

Clearly they’re hoping to use some fanboy ferver to fuel further growth too, although they also note that comments will be monitored “closely” and offensive ones removed.

“The voting system will do a lot to keep Versus’ content relevant — good user reasons are up-voted and are very visible while bad reasons are going to be down-voted and out of the visitors’ sight,” the startup tells TechCrunch.

“Moreover, ‘fanboy armies’ and emotional debates about products can bring up useful information such as users’ sentiments, opinions that is exactly what we want to incorporate into Versus as well. Versus should offer more than just data-based comparison. We will show all angles to a comparison and thus, we need all user opinions.”

Current product categories in Versus’ comparison database — all of which will get the Vegas social layer — are: tablets, cameras, projectors, mobile phones, e-readers, televisions, monitors, MP3 players, voice recorders, washing machines, combo washer dryers, tumble dryers, speakers, game consoles, cities, headphones, mobile phone headsets, PC and gaming headsets, scanners, robotic vacuum cleaners, universities, camcorders, graphics cards, sports watches, CPUs. It currently offers comparisons in 18 languages.

Versus see its competitors extending beyond other comparison engines (such as FindTheBest) as the Vegas social layer takes off — so it’s aiming to compete with the likes of Q&A sites such as Stackoverflow and Quora. But it argues it will “offer better answers to all A-vs-B questions (which are a large part of their content)”. 

It adds that the Versus comparison engine is also “highly generic”, so although it has started with consumer electronics it says the underlying engine could be applied to “anything” — with examples including “cities, universities or even JavaScript frameworks and databases”. 

In terms of business model, Versus has three strands, based on lead generation connected to the fact its users have a “strong intent to buy” and are approaching a purchasing decision — namely: ads, affiliate and licensing content to publishers.