Kayak, a new startup called Sparkbuy, launching at the Web 2.0 Expo today, wants to make the process of finding the perfect gadget easier using a similar simplified interface. Although consumers already have a number of gadget-shopping services at their disposal, including everything from Google Product Search to Amazon, Sparkbuy is innovating through its easy-to-use website design and its manuallymcurated collection of data.Like the popular flight-finding service
The result is a gadget-shopping site that even the most woefully un-tech-savvy consumer could use, while still appealing to gadget geeks looking for an easier comparison shopping tool.
Sparkbuy was created by Dan Shapiro, who previously founded Ontela, a mobile imaging company that merged with Photobucket in 2009. The company has also raised a $1 million venture and angel round led by Benaroya Ventures and Geoff Entress.
Shapiro said the idea came to him after he got fed up shopping for laptops online. "After hours of reading reviews and sorting through websites, I felt like I was stuck in a cruel game of Confusopoly. It wasn't until I happened to buy an airplane ticket from a travel search site that the 'aha' moment hit. Why couldn't I shop this way for my computer?"
With Sparkbuy, the company has created a simple interface to process the large amount of data available online for consumer electronics. Initially, the site is launching with a data set of half a million points from its team of researchers, who pulled the info from everything from manufacturer spec sheets to online photos. The company pulls its data from multiple sources to prevent bias, we're told.
Currently, Sparkbuy offers data for over 2,000 laptops and it has just started adding TVs to its database. Monitors will be next, followed by smartphones in the near future.
No Confusing Lingo
The difference between Sparkbuy and so many other shopping comparison sites is how it phrases your gadget requirements. Instead of saying "4 GB of RAM or higher" or "500 GB hard drive," for example, the filters on Sparkbuy are written using the language that normal (i.e. non-geeks) understand - like "fast" and "big hard drive."
Other options include things like "lightweight" and "long battery" for describing the computer's features, and choices like "Photoshop" or "MS Office," for describing the types of software programs the computer can support. For TVs, you can toggle things like "3D" or "Wall Mount" on or off, and then use sliders for more technical items like "Contrast Ratio" or "Brightness."
The resulting lists can then be sorted by best match or price (either low to high or vice versa). Individual items have easy-to-read ratings, spec lists and links to sites where the product can be found.
Sparkbuy had been in a closed beta since Dec. 1 with a limited number of testers. Today, it launches into open beta to the general public.