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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 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

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

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:

Yabbly: Make Great Decisions from Yabbly on Vimeo.

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