Only 25% of U.S. local businesses have websites and just 10% show their prices online, but Centzy launches today to let you sort local business searches by price, open hours, and eventually quality — reviews relative to price. That means you could find the nearest dry cleaner open until 7pm that’s the cheapest but has the best customer ratings pulled from Yelp and CitySearch.
Centzy uses a self-built crowdsourcing platform get humans to pull offline data online. That’s data inaccessible to any web crawler. With $800,000 in seed funding from ff Venture Capital and Lightbank, Centzy could one day monetize its crowdsourcing platform, price database, and/or a destination site for finding and purchasing from the best local businesses. Today at TechCrunch Disrupt, Centzy opens its search engine for 15 business types in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City. So go find who’s got a great deal and who’s ripping you off.
The big problem with today’s local business search is that there’s no correlation between higher prices and better customer reviews. People will give a decent $5 burger the same 4-star review as a great-but-not perfect $15 burger. Since review sites don’t provide specific pricing info, you won’t necessarily find the best value at the highest-rated business. But Centzy plans to combine review data from Yelp and CitySearch’s APIs with the pricing and open hours it collects to provide true value scores.
For today’s launch, though, Centzy’s web and mobile sites let you search for hair salons, gyms, museums, oil changes and more business types, and sort by price, distance, open hours, and average rating. Listings appear on a map and you can select which product’s price you want to search for. More business types are on the way.
Centzy’s Jay Shek tells me he and his technical co-founder Jeremy Clemenson have backgrounds in managing and analyzing data for San Francisco startups. They took Centzy through the Entrepreneurs Roundtable in New York last summer and decided to stay and make NYC their home base. It plans to be available in the top 10 U.S. markets by this fall, go nationwide in 2013, and now Centzy is looking for more funding to build a team including expert Ruby developers. Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be much competition for bringing offline prices online. The closest thing might be Priceonomics, which is a price guide for second-hand goods.
I literally used Centzy for one minute and discovered a cheaper, better reviewed dry cleaner that’s closer to my apartment than the one I currently go to. The value scores aren’t ready yet but the product already works. Detailed human reviews will always be valuable, especially for restaurants. But if there’s one service that could replace Yelp for me, it’s Centzy.
MC Hammer asked if businesses will use Centzy to research the prices of competitors, but Centzy’s Shek says users want more than the lowest price, they want quality. Cyan Bannister asked “doesn’t Yelp show prices?” but Shek responded that the exact price is a lot more useful than vague “$$” or “$$$$” indicators. And on how Centzy will make money, Shek says his company will be able to take a cut of purchases made through its business search.