Have you ever tried to search the Internet for the best, most reliable taxi cab company in your city? If you have, then you were probably forced to wade through a dozen links to sites selling the DVD of Taxi Driver, starring Robert De Niro, and when you finally reached a link that proffered advice about reputable cab companies in your area, chances are the site was nothing more than a paid advertisement designed to be a meretricious shill in favor of the highest bidder.
Such was the recurring dilemma of local entrepreneur Kevin O’ Connor for the past several years. The recalcitrance of Internet search engines plagued him until he finally decided to patch a major hole that he saw in the framework of the Web. Last year, O’Connor launched FindTheBest.com in an effort to allow consumers to, well — find the best — no matter what the search entails.
FindTheBest.com is a completely objective comparison engine that allows users to compare a number of different options in any area of interest, from top-rated colleges to top-ranked carpaccio. Because the site is 100-percent objective, users always get an accurate guide, based on their own personalized filters, to whatever it is they’re searching for. According to O’Connor, the co-founder and CEO of the burgeoning company, that objectivity is based on three separate ways in which the site compiles and filters its information.
“A lot of our data comes from government sources, so public-domain databases, and other massive databases that we pull from — anything from climate data to crime rates to economic trends,” O’Connor told Noozhawk.
“The second way, and the real focus, is how we compile the data. We’ll pick an area, like ski resorts or smartphones, and then we figure out how people make decisions in terms of those things. We then design a comparison app for that category, and we go out and compile the data, so it is very human curated.
“The final way that we keep our information fresh and accurate is that people and businesses, a la Wikipedia, come in and make modifications and edits to the data,” he continued. “So the theory is that it becomes self-sustaining. And so far the theory has paid off.”
The free site, which launched last August, already has 470 comparison apps from which to choose, and O’Connor hopes to boost that figure to 1,000 apps in 2011. For ease of use, FindTheBest.com has been organized into nine broad categories, including Arts and Entertainment, Business and Economy, Education, Health, Reference, Science, Society, Sports and Recreation, and Technology, and each search can be further sorted by numerous key filters.
According to O’Connor, starting FindTheBest.com was simply a natural response to a glaring problem that he saw with average Internet search engines.
“I kept running into the same problem over and over again,” he said. “Whether I was looking for a private school or a ski resort or hosting company, I kept finding myself having to compile data to make comparisons or to make decisions. It was frustrating.”
Even more frustrating to O’Connor was the fact that the only sites compiling any lists whatsoever were “affiliated shills,” or sites that were fronts for other companies that were paying them to jockey for search engine optimization, or SEO, position.
“There was nobody out there doing objective data for making big decisions ... certainly not on a broad basis anyway,” he said.
To ameliorate the information disconnect that he saw in the online world, O’Connor assembled a small team to get FindTheBest.com off the ground. Chief operating officer Brayton Johnson and chief technology officer Scott Leonard were brought in as co-founders and investors. Johnson had experienced success as CEO of Qfactor Inc., a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the training and coaching of entrepreneurs, organizations and businesses. Leonard worked with O’Connor at DoubleClick.com.
Founded by O’Connor in Santa Barbara in 1996, DoubleClick is now a Google subsidiary providing and developing Internet ad-serving services. O’Connor sold the company to an investment firm in 2005 and it was later acquired by Google for a price of $3.1 billion.
O’Connor recently realized that his small company was growing faster than he expected, so he was forced to call in some back-up. Originally self-funded, FindTheBest just last month closed a funding round with Kleiner Perkins, a $200 million investment initiative for start-up companies.
O’Connor himself is well-versed in the world of start-up businesses, having sold two different companies — ISS to IBM and DoubleClick to Google — for more than $1 billion. He even authored a book about his keys to entrepreneurial success, entitled The Map of Innovation: Creating Something Out of Nothing. According to O’Connor, the onus of his book is dispelling the belief that a good idea is a profitable idea.
“For the last 25 years, I have been trying to put together a process of creating new companies or creating new products,” O’Connor said. “It evolved over time, but it was really just articulating my approach to building a company from scratch. Ideas are cheap, and most ideas are bad, so you have to create a lot of different ideas, and then focus on just a couple.
“There are a thousand things you can do, but there are only about five that really matter,” he continued. “Most ideas will never see the light of day, unless people really know what to do with them.”
According to O’Connor, the idea for FindTheBest was one that had been nagging him for quite a while.
“FindTheBest was an idea that just kept coming back to me,” he said. “I tend to get obsessed with certain ideas, and this one was consuming my life. To me, it was a really big problem, and something I was really passionate about, and I had never done a consumer product, so it was a brand-new challenge.”
So far, the response has been monumental, according to O’Connor, and the future appears to be very bright for the ambitious CEO.
“There are days when we have 30,000 visitors to the site, which is pretty cool,” he said. “You’re helping thousands of people every hour to make important decision. Most of the products I did before were business-to-business, but the reaction to this has just been great.”
FindTheBest.com is currently hiring, and welcomes anyone interested in building something great to contact the company. Click here for more information on job openings and internships. Follow FindTheBest.com on Twitter: @Find_The_Best. Become a fan of FindTheBest.com on Facebook