has potential has potential

Summary: Victorian Web start-up My Perfect has a strong story and rationale for why it will succeed. But it has to overcome some challenges and design flaws first.


After 12 months in stealth mode, Drysdale-based start-up My Perfect this month launched what it described as a new type of online search service: a "choice engine".

(Drysdale is on the Bellarine Peninsula, just out of Geelong in Victoria, Australia.)

Founder Andrew Ballard told bootstrappr the service was like having "an expert in your pocket". "Traditional search engines start with one search query and return thousands or millions of search results: we flip that on its head totally," he said.

"We start with thousands of products in any category, and play a very smart, fast game of 20 questions, until you're left with your one, perfect product."

Once consumers find what they're looking for, the service will provide links to businesses who can supply the product directly, without users having to source it themselves. My Perfect's business model is based upon providing these extremely qualified sales leads to businesses.

Users can also contribute content to the site, such as adding specifications to products or reviews.

Ballard and co-founder James Rickard have initially launched the site with six product categories: beer, blogs, cameras, careers, political parties and phones, but more are in store.

"We're definitely going to roll out more sites this year: as many as one a week if possible," said Ballard. "We have a hot list of 50 sites under consideration, and at any one time, three or four are in different stages of roll-out. We just turned on, and myperfectbike is not far from internal testing."

Ballard said the pair would aim to turn the business into a stable, profitable company within 18 months. "By that stage, we'll know how big the concept of our choice engine will be," he said.

With this in mind, My Perfect is currently seeking external funding to bolster the founder's own resources. "Our rationale ... is simply time to market," said Ballard. "We don't want to have the choice engine concept to be brought to market by another party: we see the combined weight of strong intellectual property protection and first-mover advantage as a vital reason to bring in external funding and expertise."

My Perfect has a strong story and rationale for why it will succeed. For starters there is the service itself, which seems to work quite well.

Bootstrappr tested the My Perfect service in the phone category, and found it easy to use and quite reliable when it came to picking what phone would broadly suit different types of users. For my personal use it recommended a Palm Treo 850; not quite the iPhone 3G that I use every day, but close enough for my email, Web browsing and rich media mobile habits.

If I had been looking to buy a phone, I would have at least clicked on any purchasing links to check the relevant prices. Ballard is right about the business model: anyone coming to the site is at least going to be curious about what options are out there in a certain purchasing area.

Then there's the founders' experience. Ballard is an experienced Web all-rounder with a history in online development and small business, having previously been active with handicraft portal The Internet Craft Shop and a small Web design firm, Design Central. His partner, Rickard, was brought in because of his up-to-date knowledge with modern Web technologies such as style sheets, Javascript and open source.

In addition, the pair have tried this model before: during Australia's federal election in 2007, they launched the "myperfectparty" site two weeks prior to polling day, to allow people to use the technology to work out who to vote for.

My Perfect founder
Andrew Ballard

"The site was inundated and we were glad to reach election day: we had almost 10,000 people through the site in two weeks, and based on the analysis of the questions answered, we were able to correctly predict the result ahead of time," said Ballard.

The experience, and several other testing (beta) initiatives allowed the start-up to get experience with its model.

Of course, like any start-up, My Perfect has some challenges ahead of it, and its service isn't perfect. For starters, the site looks dated. Can anyone say 1990s? They need to update it quickly into the Web 2.0 age ... think pastels and Google-esque minimalist aesthetic. If the clunky design was replaced the idea would immediately look a lot better.

Secondly, although the service is different from most, My Perfect already faces some strong competition from a heap of recommendation sites. In the consumer technology arena alone (from where the most lucrative leads would be likely to come), competition is stiff and has been for years.

Attracting a critical mass of visitors to the site so that it achieves a high search engine ranking will be a key focus for My Perfect, or else nobody will find it. This can be challenging for Web 2.0-style sites that rely more on services and user-generated content than content generated by professionals, for example.

We suspect that My Perfect will initially face a few problems attracting advertisers, until they can build a bit of scale. But they can probably shake down a few dollars from Google ads in the meantime.

With those caveats, we have decided to award My Perfect bootstrappr's first seal of approval.

bootstrappr opinion: BOOM

Topics: Government AU, Browser, Start-Ups, Enterprise 2.0

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  • My not so perfect

    Looks cr** in FireFox on Linux.
  • crashes

    It crashes my browser (ie 6 - chosen by my employer not me)

    Also, i only choices for beer, careers etc. seems a bit limited. more like a concept.
  • Not working for me...

    Most frustrating experience. IE7 on XP. Tried both Camera and Phones and couldn't get past the second question on either. Kept saying "seems we got our questions out of order can we start over".... Not ready for prime time yet...
  • thoughts

    Worked ok when i tested it last week. FF3/mac.

    I don't really see this doing well on advertising/acting as a centralized portal.

    If... they decentralized the action points: allow people/businesses to create their own product index/own questions (machine built depending on topics) and then post those as widgets onto their sites. They could also charge for a hosted version (whitelabel or like) for businesses with lots of products.

    Most obviously, why aren't they linking to product partners? Buy it now (=commissions)?
  • Thanks for the feedback - apologies if you find an error...

    Thanks everyone for your feedback: we always welcome hearing from our users directly, be it good, bad or ugly.

    Apologies to Anon, Anon and Andy who had javascript issues today: to cope with the heavy load, we removed one AJAX feature... which of course broke two other parts of the site. So much for 'rapid response' - next time we'll measure twice, cut once.

    To the feedback of 'concept' and 'not ready for prime time', there certainly is truth to what you say: beer is the first of the launch sites where we're actively asking for user input, and the remainder of the sites are probably the 80% of the 80/20 rule: we've put in the obvious majority, but where there are blanks, we'd invite you to fill them in.

    To grah, thanks for your comments - we have grand plans for the fulfillment side of the business model, but you can probably see we've focussed on demonstrating a range of categories using the choice engine for the launch. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts if you have time - just hop onto the site, press on the contact link in the footer, and begin a live web chat with me - I'm just about always online.

    Thanks for the profile, Renai - we value getting as much feedback and exposure as we can in this early stage. Hopefully, the teething problems will be just that, whereas the underlying concept and ethos will shine through.

    Founder & CEO,
  • Same as Andy

    Couldn't get past Q2 using IE7. Same problem as Andy. Keep trying.
  • Followup to Not Working for Me

    After a second go today, I got through to results. I very much like the process and I appreciate the CEO so honestly responding in this forum. One point I would make... (and my apologies if you already have professional designer)... Get someone in to rework the interface and draw the elements together a little more - make it a little more pretty.
  • Questions out of order - still

    Tried cameras - selected Off Model in Q1, 7 0r 8 MP in Q2, back to Q1.

    IE7 on XP.
  • It works a treat with Safari on a Mac

    It looks like he has taken a standards approach to Web design.
  • Not Working for me

    If your Camera and Phones are not working properly then zdnet give you a good service.