Yabbly execs Ian Shafer and Tom Leung want to help people make better decisions


Internet searches on Bing or Google don’t always produce the best results. After all, what if you’re looking for the most romantic restaurant to celebrate an anniversary in Seattle or trying to decide whether Kauai or Maui would be a better holiday vacation with the kids?

Sometimes, you need real feedback, from real people. That’s where Yabbly — a Seattle startup led by former Amazon.com and Off & Away software engineer Ian Shafer and former Marchex and Google manager Tom Leung — steps in.

“Our mission is to help the world make better decisions,” says Leung, the former senior vice president of product at Marchex.

Yabbly allows users to connect with other people who’ve made similar decisions — say purchasing a Ford Escape or Sonicare toothbrush or iPhone 5.

“Those kind of really specific questions are best answered by someone just like you who just made that decision,” says Leung. “You are not going to get the best answer by just reviewing static reviews on an Amazon or reading some expert review on CNET because they don’t know you and they don’t know your needs and you really can’t have a discussion with them.”

As for posting questions to Facebook, Leung said that it is “impossible to cut through the sea of of baby pictures and pictures of food in order to get any thoughtful answers.”

Like the Q&A service Quora, users of Yabbly can post questions and then receive input. However, Leung notes that Yabbly is different since it is designed for everyday questions, rather than the highbrow discussions that often take place on Quora.

“Quora is set up for (questions) like: ‘Why is the sky blue? These canonical Jeopardy-kind of of questions,” notes Leung. “We are not trying to be a competition, like Quora, to see who can be the smartest. And we are not trying to be like Facebook which tends often to be like who can show you that they have the most interesting life. Yabbly is a little more practical.”

Yabbly also is starting with a mobile-first approach, a key differentiator as it enters a very crowded field that spans Facebook, Quora, Twitter, Consumer Reports and Decide.com.

In order to provide honest dialogue, including around sensitive questions, Leung said that they offer an “incognito mode” in which users can hide their identities. In the next version of the service, Leung said that users will be able to post questions for specific people within the community.

Leung said the goal is to have questions answered in a matter of minutes.

Yabbly plans to make money by hosting sponsored questions and answers, and perhaps through offering contextual ads.

“Our focus right now is to really nurture this great community that we have,” said Leung, adding that they are selectively adding people into the mix through invites.

Leung has already convinced some deep-pocketed investors to join him on the mission.

Yabbly just reeled in $500,000 in startup financing, including cash from former Immunex CEO Ed Fritzky; Acxiom Chief Product Officer Phil Mui; and angel investors from Google and Amazon.com.

The service is only available by invite at this time, but GeekWire readers can sign up immediately via Facebook and Twitter by going here before 5 p.m. today. Yabbly has been testing its service for the past eight weeks, with a few thousand questions answered to date.

Here’s a closer look at how Yabbly works:

<embed src="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=51314729" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="400" height="300"></embed>

Yabbly: Make Great Decisions from Yabbly on Vimeo.

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  • pc

    He’s got the juice – go TL!

  • Wendy

    Congrats to the lauch!

  • nealfreeland

    Hey Tom – What’s the best way to congratulate someone on angel funding round, via a comment on the blog post, an email, or Facebook wall comment?

    • http://twitter.com/alwaysbshipping Tom Leung

      Thx Neal! Due to your high number of FB friends, I’m thinking a comment on your wall tagging the Yabbly facebook page would be quite a potent chaser to your post above :-)

  • tdieni

    Congrats Tom!

  • http://www.realself.com/ Tom Seery

    I buy into the pain point yabbly is addressing, but they’ll need to be thoughtful about not falling into the gamification trap of Yahoo Answers which, from what I’m told, was “hijacked” by a few hundred users

    • http://twitter.com/alwaysbshipping Tom Leung

      Totally agree TomS. It’s something we’ve been watching really closely. We’ve been experimenting with some alternate approaches that will hopefully scale better but it’s still early sledding!

  • http://twitter.com/alwaysbshipping Tom Leung

    I should also mention we’re looking for our third full-time engineer — ideally a web developer or iOS developer. Our office is in Pioneer Square a few steps from Pho Fuschia. tom @ domain

  • http://twitter.com/nparekh00 Nikesh Parekh

    Congrats Tom! Sounds interesting. Already showing up in the my FaceBook feed….

    • http://twitter.com/alwaysbshipping Tom Leung

      Thx Nikesh!

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