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 myperfectcareer.com.au, 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.
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
"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