Q&A with PriceAdvice president and COO Ira Williams III about making comparison shopping online an easy proposition for consumers
PriceAdvice offers a tool for pricing and comparison of used items. The Austin, TX–based company has raised $500,000 since the start of 2011.
SUB: Please briefly describe what PriceAdvice is, and the value proposition you offer to both buyers and sellers.
Williams: PriceAdvice is the ‘Bluebook For Everything Else’. Our objective is to be the most comprehensive source of fair market prices for used consumer products. This allows buyers to make more informed decisions when buying used items and it will enable sellers to more accurately price their goods for sale.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Williams: While there are other sites that offer price estimates for used products, we believe that the most important hurdle for us to overcome with consumers is their own inertia. By that I mean most people, and I would have included myself in this group not too long ago, think that the best way to find good prices on the web is to open up a bunch of browser tabs or new windows and look at a variety of websites. This is not only inefficient, but it doesn’t always produce the best result for the shopper. We’re making the shopping process simpler and more effective.
SUB: What differentiates PriceAdvice from your competitors (or from those offering similar services)?
Williams: We have spent over five years developing proprietary algorithms and data analysis processes that allow PriceAdvice to pore through terabytes of data, clean it and normalize it, then make it available to consumers in an easy-to-use format. More importantly, we base our valuations on actual transactions on millions of items, not just what their asking price was. That makes our pricing more accurate and valid for comparisons.
SUB: How are you getting the word out about PriceAdvice?
Williams: We are deploying a combination of press and public relations strategies, along with a social media plan that leverages our unique insights about the secondary market. We’ve found that once people hear about the service and give it a try, they immediately understand the value and are willing to tell others about it. We’ve also begun establishing relationships with influential bloggers and folks who are knowledgeable about the product categories we’re covering. They not only recognize the value of a service like ours but they also lend credibility that helps consumers quickly get comfortable with us.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind PriceAdvice?
Williams: Since 2006, we’ve operated a site called iTaggit.com that was specifically designed to help collectors sell their items on eBay. We realized that many of those iTaggit users were using our tool to check the prices for the items they were planning to upload and sell.
Keep in mind that roughly $400 billion in used products are sold each year, and about $30 billion of those transactions are done online. So this is a massive opportunity for us to pursue. After we did some additional market research, and better understood the needs of our target audience, we made the investments to leverage our data acquisition platform to provide the underpinnings for PriceAdvice. We now have the ability to curate a wide variety of products across hundreds of categories.
SUB: How much funding are you raising this round? How do you plan to use the funds?
Williams: We have raised $500,000 since the beginning of 2011, and this most recent infusion will help us accelerate our marketing and business development efforts.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside investment?
Williams: Our lead investor, G51 Capital, has been incredibly supportive of our efforts to get PriceAdvice off the ground and on a steep growth trajectory. They realized that we have a unique window of opportunity to establish our brand and our service as the place to find accurate prices for used consumer products.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more funding in the near future?
Williams: While we are constantly evaluating our capital requirements, we don’t anticipate the need for additional funding in the next several months.
SUB: What have the biggest obstacles been so far to building PriceAdvice?
Williams: What keeps me up at night aren’t necessarily obstacles but opportunities. The uncertain economy has made people pay more attention to the market for used products, whether used cars, used iPads or used golf clubs. We are well positioned to help consumers make smart decisions as they buy used products. So we know that there is a great deal of open field running for us to do. At the same time, we have to be smart, focused and execute extremely well so that we establish a reputation for accuracy and quality. This, in turn, will help us build loyalty and repeat visits from consumers while also making our services attractive to prospective partners.
SUB: What are your goals for PriceAdvice over the next year?
Williams: We have fairly aggressive growth targets that will allow our consumer-facing services to grow in terms of the product categories we cover and the revenues we expect to generate. We are pursuing a series of strategic partnerships that will allow us to expand our reach and allow us to augment the services offered by other sites. Stay tuned for more details on those.
We also have plans to enable us to direct consumers to local partners with whom we have aligned. Our goal here is to help the consumer find the right price for what she’s looking for, then get it to her as quickly as possible. That could mean a link to an Amazon Marketplace seller. Sometimes that will mean connecting them with a retailer in their area that will be expecting her and will close the sale “offline”.
We also believe that there is an opportunity to help manufacturers monitor and, in some cases, participate in the secondary market for their products. In the auto business, most premium brands make a point of touting the way that their cars maintain their resale value. There are several other categories where a similar statement of quality and value retention would be brand-enhancing for their products. In some of my previous roles, I’ve seen first hand the tangible and intangible benefits of being attuned to the secondary market for our products. I believe PriceAdvice can help demystify the pre-owned market for a number of companies.
PriceAdvice – www.priceadvice.com