Some of the top venture capital firms and angel investors in Seattle and Silicon Valley are tossing their financial muscle behind a Seattle startup which promises to change the way people shop for TVs, laptop computers and cameras. Decide.com just landed a $6 million venture capital round led by Seattle-based Maveron, GeekWire has learned.
Other high-profile investors are joining the round as well, including early Google investor and former Amazon.com executive Ram Shriram; former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford and former Farecast CEO Hugh Crean.
Previous investors, including Madrona Venture Group and Zillow.com co-founder Rich Barton, also participated.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the group of people on our investment team,” Decide.com CEO Mike Fridgen, a former Farecast, TripHub and Alaska Airlines executive, tells GeekWire.
Decide.com plans to launch the service later this Spring. In an interview, Fridgen provided a few clues about what the team is building, noting that they are eliminate “buyer’s remorse” related to consumer electronics purchases.
Asked what that means, Fridgen offered a personal example about his own frustration with the purchase of a recent Sony laptop.
“It is not quite the right product. It wasn’t quite the right price. So, there was an opportunity for me to make a better decision around that purchase,” said Fridgen. He added that Decide.com is going in a different direction from more traditional comparison shopping and consumer review services.
Interestingly, Farecast — the online travel company which Microsoft gobbled up for $115 million — was also trying to help consumers make more informed decisions. In that case, the company’s search technology told air travelers whether it was a good time to buy or not. University of Washington computer science professor and Farecast creator Oren Etzioni also has his hands in Decide.com, serving as an adviser and co-founder.
As part of the investment, Maveron’s Dan Levitan and Fridgen’s former boss at Farecast, Hugh Crean, have joined the board. Levitan said the investment came together quickly in part because of the startup’s desire to create an enduring consumer brand.
“Their vision has the potential to save consumers lots of money,” Levitan says. “One of the clearest consumer trends since the crisis of 2007/2008 is that consumers are consistently seeking value in their purchasing decisions.”
The company employs 20 people, with plans to add as many as 10 more workers this year.
It is a bit unusual to see an Internet company stay in stealth mode following two rounds of financing, and in that regard Decide.com is a bit of a throwback to a different era.
Asked about the reason for the secrecy, Fridgen said that it is a “very complex problem” and the product they are building is extremely robust.
We’ve seen other Seattle area startups try to tackle the consumer electronics category, most notably Dan Shapiro’s new upstart: Sparkbuy. Fridgen said that Decide.com is “fundamentally addressing a different set of problems.”
“It is a large market, and there are a lot of players in the market addressing different things,” said Fridgen, who declined to discuss possible competitors.