Recently, I've answered the question "What do you write about?" with "Not coupons." It's not that I don't like a deal (who doesn't?), but that coupons are coupons and aren't technologically interesting. Backyard, a self-described "scrappy young startup" showed today at the Launch conference and gives their users "relevant & valuable information about deals in their area."
Normally, this is the sort of thing that would fall into the realm of what I don't write about, but CEO Steve Espinosa showed me that Backyard has something different to offer. By working with Facebook Connect, the site immediately works to use demographic data to cater not only the look of the site, but also determine what sort of results you see. Consider it a personalized sort of Yelp search engine.
Right now, Backyard sticks with two primary realms - deals like happy hours, sushi specials, lunch specials and taco Tuesdays and services like manicures, pedicures, haircuts and tanning services. The company discussed more realms, but that's not the interesting part. Espinosa differentiated the site from Yelp, showing that if you search for a place for a bar on Yelp (especially in a city like San Francisco), all you'll see is a page of five-star reviews. Backyard differentiates search results according to demographics it gathers from your Facebook profile and caters the search results accordingly. It also takes into account what places your friends on Facebook like, taking that into account when it returns search results.
"If you like rap, we'll likely direct you to a club," said Espinosa. "If you like rock, we'll probably send you somewhere else."
Backyard helps the user interpret results, showing a percentage on each that indicates how much higher or lower the price for the service there is compared to the average of all results. Where does Backyard get its results? A combination of sources, from Yahoo Local to Yelp reviews to Facebook data.
Backyard also does one other little thing - it has actual people confirm things like price and hours of happy hours, Taco Tuesdays and other sorts of things, meaning that when you get these search results, you can be sure that when you ask for a happy hour right now, it isn't a happy hour that used to exist three years ago. And when you click through to an individual business's page, you can see an aggregate of Yelp reviews, this verified contact, pricing and hour data, and even add it to your Foursquare to-do list.
Beyond that, Backyard really might be just another "Where's a good bar/salon/restaurant" app like any other, but the idea of cartering search results according to my demographics sets it apart.