ViewScore does the hard work of reading the reviews for you and assigns a numerical score to the product so you can quickly decide if it’s right for you.Holiday shopping season has begun, and with pocketbooks worldwide squeezed especially tight in this tumultuous year, price conscious consumers will be weighing every decision particularly carefully, pouring over reviews posted online by both professionals and other users.
With sometimes hundreds of reviews appearing for a new camera or cell phone, that process can be daunting to say the least. A new Israeli startup hopes to ease the pain.
Two-year-old ViewScore does the hard work of reading the reviews for you and assigns a numerical score from 1-100 to each product so you can quickly decide if the item is for you. To work its magic, ViewScore scans over 1,500 sites, from the big boppers such as CNET, to mom and pop’s like Steve’s Digi-Cams.
ViewScore founder and CTO Ami Zivov tells ISRAEL21c that the technology running behind the scenes is anything but simple. “It’s a very sophisticated system that took us a full year to develop to make it accurate. We’ve published several patents around our algorithms.”
Crawling the Net for reviews
ViewScore starts by crawling the Internet for anything that looks like a review (that part’s not so hard to do – the crawler looks for the word “review” in an article). From there, artificial intelligence and natural language processing parses each review to assign it a score. The technology is “self-learning” – as new reviews are indexed, a product’s score is updated.
Reviews are given different weights depending on who wrote it – professional reviews are ranked higher than the user comments, say, on Amazon.com. That’s intended to generate less biased reviews – a number of less reputable manufacturers and their PR agencies have used blogs to artificially inflate a product’s status, ViewScore spokesperson Uriah Av-Ron explains.
ViewScore isn’t alone in the field. Competitors include ConsumerSeach and Wize. But ViewScore does something the other two can’t – it assigns a numerical score to a product even if the individual reviews don’t display such a number.
Using software to streamline results
Zivov came up with the idea for ViewScore after being injured in a motorcycle accident. While recuperating he wanted to buy a new computer monitor that would be easier for him to use. But a Google search for “monitor” resulted in an unmanageable 10 million results. He plowed through the data for two weeks until he realized that software could streamline the process.
The six-person Tel Aviv-based company has landed seed funding so far from private investors. ViewScore is now looking to raise a Series A venture capital backed round. But with money for startups drying up, a key question will be how ViewScore intends to make money.
The first way comes when a customer makes a purchase. Visitors to the ViewScore site can click to order their desired product online from a participating store. ViewScore has cut an agreement with PriceGrabber which provides the store links; the two split revenues.
A potentially more lucrative direction is to “white label” the service where a third party integrates ViewScore’s product rankings into its own site. The Israeli comparison shopping site Zap.co.il is ViewScore’s first retail partner. To see an example, choose the “Electric and Electronics” category, then the link for “Cameras” and scroll down. You’ll see the ViewScore rating for most of the items listed.
ViewScore also has a deal with Korean electronics conglomerate LG’s mobile phone division. Search for the “VX5500″ on the LG site, then click the Reviews tab – you’ll see the ViewScore rank there.
ViewScore currently only covers consumer electronics – a criticism leveled at the company by a number of Internet pundits – but with additional financing, Zivov aims to add more categories. “Travel, cars, restaurants, books, we can do it all and it won’t take a lot of resources,” Zivov says.
We’d give that a 100.