“The problem was when I would search for the best ski resort or the best college to send my son to, I didn’t get objective data,” he explained. “Instead I got scam sites and affiliate shills.
“The challenge was developing a platform where you could compare things side by side, filter your requirements, find out what experts say and make a decision.”
FindtheBest is an objective comparison engine that allows users to survey a variety of options in any category through personalized filters.
The site pulls information from databases, uses a customized comparison app for that category to compile the data and allows users to edit the information to achieve objective results.
“The next evolution of our strategy is through distribution,” O’Connor said. “There are hundreds of millions of sites and consumers all over, so we want to bring our (local) content to Noozhawk. We have databases of all private and public schools, all the nursing homes in the country and we want to bring some of the Santa Barbara data to let people choose (things like) schools at the local level.”
FindTheBest is organized into nine broad categories: Education, Electronics, Finance, Health, Home & Family, Motors, Software, Sports & Recreation and Travel & Lifestyle.
Noozhawk readers can FindTheBest public and private high schools, middle schools and elementary schools; child care; substance abuse rehabilitation; real estate; and nonprofit organizations, with many of the categories modified so the default search starts in the Santa Barbara and Goleta area. (From the horizontal navigation bar just under the Noozhawk logo on our homepage, use the drop-down menus from each tab to reach desired categories.)
FindTheBest provides the user with one “meta rating” based on expert reviews and quantitative ratings that take into account various product attributes and functionality.
“The sole purpose is to figure out how to take the most important data and present it to the users,” O’Connor said. “The more data they collect, the better.”
Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen said the partnership with FindTheBest matches up well with the local news site’s analytics.
“Our own data indicate that our readers are already very interested in many of these topics,” he said. “That’s the beauty of the Internet. I could sell you a newspaper, but I would never know what you did with it. On the Web, however, everything is tracked, which enables us to continuously tailor our product to our readers’ wants and needs.”
Operating from the former South Coast Beacon offices at 15 W. Figueroa St. in Santa Barbara, O’Connor and his team spent two years and $2 million building their platform and each member is tasked with a specialty. It only costs FindTheBest about $5,000 to enter a new market, he said.
“One of the advantages we have is that since we are broad we are able to innovate in one market and extend across all of their products,” O’Connor said.
In 1996, O’Connor founded DoubleClick, which was later acquired by Google for $3.1 billion. He was the initial investor for Internet Security Systems, which sold to IBM. He also is the author of The Map of Innovation: Creating Something Out of Nothing.
With his current project, the idea is to penetrate local markets to continue to establish FindTheBest as a trusted source for making major decisions, O’Connor said.
“We want users to come away believing they made the best product choice for them and that we are a trusted source for great objective information minus the marketing hype,” he said.