When he was working at digital advertising company DoubleClick in New York, Eliot Horowitz grew increasingly frustrated trying to find unbiased price comparisons whenever he shopped online. So Horowitz, who studied computer science and artificial intelligence at Brown University, set out to solve the problem. He spent six months building a virtual spider designed to crawl the entire Web to seek out the best price on a product and incorporated his work into his site, which launched in 2005. Unlike traditional search engines and comparison shopping sites, companies can't pay to place higher in the search. "The goal of the site is to be completely unbiased and completely comprehensive," says Horowitz. The site, which is written and edited almost entirely by its users, also contains reviews, ratings, and articles on products that range from books by Muslim authors to baseball gloves.
The company is not yet profitable, but that's largely for lack of trying, says Horowitz. "In some ways, [monetizing] is an afterthought. We know it's very valuable real estate. All the other comparison shopping engines are extremely profitable," he says. If the user is already in the market to buy, then companies will be extra happy to target their advertising to the search results for their product, reasons Horowitz. The company survived on its own for its first year and a half, then raised $6.2 million in venture capital. Though he needs to make payroll for 25 employees, Horowitz is betting that by continually improving the consumer experience, his site will become a major player in online shopping by 2008.
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