Shopping online can feel like playing the stock market. One day, the large-screen TV you’ve had your eye on seems like a steal at $1,500. The next day, it’s down even more to $1,400 — or maybe it’s up to $1,700, leading you to kick yourself for not buying it earlier.
Decide.com, a Seattle startup built by former Farecast engineers, tries to fix that by using historical pricing data and predictive algorithms to tell consumers what and when to buy.
On Friday, Decide is announcing it has raised $8 million in a new financing round led by Vulcan Capital, the investment arm of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.
Chief Executive Mike Fridgen said he’ll use the money to hire more employees, improve the company’s mobile website and apps, and expand its predictive pricing to most major merchandise categories.
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The service, which already covers electronics, appliances, lawn mowers and exercise equipment, soon will add jewelry, toys and other products sold online, Fridgen said.
“The first generation of the Internet was all about access to information,” he said. “Now, you feel overwhelmed by all this information. We’re part of the insight revolution. We’re trying to simplify the shopping experience.”
Decide’s recommendations are based on the same kinds of data-mining techniques Farecast used to track airline-ticket prices before being bought by Microsoft for about $115 million in 2008. The company says it mines 230 terabytes of data to show consumers the best-rated products and their future prices at all the major U.S. Internet retailers.
To avoid the appearance of bias, Decide does not sell advertising space on its website, but instead charges a monthly subscription fee of $4.99 (or $29.99 a year) for its price predictions.
There’s also a price guarantee, meaning Decide pays you the difference if you buy from the cheapest seller and the price drops more than predicted over the next two weeks.
”We believe Decide.com’s Big Data approach to monitoring and analyzing product price volatility is poised to disrupt the e-commerce market and deliver huge value to consumers,” Steve Hall, who heads early-stage venture-capital investing at Vulcan, said in a statement.
Decide was co-created by Farecast founder Oren Etzioni, a University of Washington computer-science professor, and launched online in mid-2011.
Users start by searching for a particular type of product, such as a camera. The site highlights the best-rated cameras, then lets users know if prices are about to go down or up and if a new model is on the way.
To buy, users simply click through to the seller’s site.
Fridgen would not disclose financial details, including the number of subscribers.
The new financing brings Decide’s total fundraising to $17 million. Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group led a $2.5 million round in 2010. Maveron, a venture-capital firm co-founded by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, led a $6.5 million round a year later.
Decide employs about 30 people at its Lower Queen Anne offices. This month it also is adding two new members to its board of directors: Vulcan’s Hall and former drugstore.com CEO Dawn Lepore.
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @amyemartinez