Mike Fridgen already helped change the way people buy airfares, getting Seattle startup Farecast off the ground in 2005. Now, the Internet executive (and loyal Husky) is trying to transform how we shop for power saws, smartphones, treadmills and everything else as the CEO of Decide.com.
The Seattle company, which like Farecast was started with help from University of Washington computer scientist Oren Etzioni, is looking to knock Consumer Reports off its perch as the go-to spot for product information. It plans to do this not only by telling shoppers the best models to buy, but also the best time to buy in terms of pricing.
Decide has some big backers in its corner, namely Madrona Venture Group and Maveron. Just last month, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital led an $8 million round in Decide — making its investor syndicate a decidedly Seattle affair.
We caught up with Fridgen, who prior to Farecast worked at Alaska Airlines and TripHub, for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight. Also, we’ve included a video interview below with Fridgen and Decide.com vice president of marketing Shauna Causey, in partnership with Started in Seattle. (More on that effort here).
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Decide makes complex shopping decisions simple. Using data and technology, Decide helps you know what to buy and when to buy it.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Rise of dynamic pricing by retailers has created a lack of trust and confusion in the marketplace. Consumers need an unbiased, trusted advisor to navigate a new generation of shopping challenges – WHEN to buy for the best price. At times, waiting fifteen minutes could save you hundreds of dollars and that’s what we do, predict when the price will change to save you money.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to funding. For what we are trying to accomplish at Decide, it requires VC funding. We’ve raised $17 million to-date from Seattle-area VCs and angels.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our people. No doubt about it. Our data scientists have over a decade of experience and are best in the world at price prediction in e-commerce. Many of us — designers, developers, marketers — have worked together at startups before Decide and that creates a strong culture of trust and autonomy.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Hiring our team. There’s nothing more important and nothing more inspiring then waking up every day being able to work with people you respect, focused on a singular mission.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Trying to achieve perfection before releasing. During our early bootstrapping days, it took us to long to launch our first public product. We spent so much time building something that we assumed people needed. We are much better now at validating assumptions in the wild and release early and often.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner? “Tremendous amount of respect for them all, especially our hometown heros Bezos and Gates. However, given our mission to change how people shop, Bezos is the obvious choice. He has revolutionized e-commerce through a technology driven approach and we respect his long-term view and that he is always experimenting.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “It’s already started. It started when we realized how volatile prices were and how hard it was to decide what product fits your needs. It will end when we’ve completely eliminated buyer’s remorse.”
Rivals should fear us because: “Decide’s special team, technology, product and resources.”
We are truly unique because: “1) We are all-in for the consumer, 100 percent objective and unbiased. Decide gets paid when users pay for the service. Most shopping sites/services lack transparency and trust — their true customers are retailers, manufacturers and advertisers. 2) World class technical team with big data, predictive analytics and e-commerce track record. 3) One-of-a-kind product features — data-driven product scores, future price predictions (and tracking to capture the savings), and price guarantee (we pay you if our recommendations are wrong).”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Learning how to move fast and optimize the balance of — championing for users, driving to consensus with smart people, being extremely data-driven, and debating passionately about priorities and trade-offs.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Listen and have humility. Listen to your mentors, co-founders, investors, your team and your customers. You will need to make decisions at lightning speed and you will make mistakes along the way. If you are open and transparent and listen along the way people will trust and respect you.”
Here’s more from Fridgen and Decide.com Vice President of Marketing Shauna Causey: