A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Judy.
Who?: Judy is the mother-in-law of Andy Sack, who started a company based on her three-ring binder of index cards that shared her opinions on everything from plumbers to restaurants to dental hygienists in Seattle.
What: When Sack first moved here with his wife in 2000, Judy gave them the notebook to help them get acquainted with the city. Sack then passed it along to friends, all of whom added comments along the way.
Present at the creation: The book became so popular that Sack, 37, and his partner Chris DeVore, 36, came up with the idea to put it online at www.judysbook.com. Today, Sack is chief executive and DeVore is chief operating officer of the company, called Judy’s Book.
What it does: Sack calls it social search because unlike directory services that give blurbs of restaurants and user reviews, Judy’s Book melds a directory of listings with information from a group of individuals you trust. Recommendations can either be shared within a network of friends or made public to a broader audience.
Target audience: The focus is on families and parents within businesses, neighborhood groups, alumni associations or other organizations.
Business model: It’s free to the user, but Judy’s Book seeks advertising for services recommended by members. Companies taking out ads get preferential treatment in the directory. Businesses that get bad reviews cannot buy advertising. To start, it does not plan on paying, or giving incentives, to individuals to write reviews.
Experience: Before founding Judy’s Book, Sack started a similar company called Abuzz. That company created a system for employees to find an individual within their companies who had specific knowledge. It was purchased by New York Times Digital in 1999 for an undisclosed price.
Financing: Judy’s Book recently raised $2.5 million in venture capital from Ignition Partners, Ackerley Partners and angel investors.
But you gotta wait: The Web site plans to launch a beta version early next year available only in Seattle. Right now, the site has the results of an early alpha version, but it is not live and cannot be updated.
Offices: The six-person company works out of DeVore’s unfinished basement in the Wallingford area.