Friday, May 4, 2012

Our Investment in Priceonomics

A few vertical marketplaces have their own pricing guides.  In cars, Kelly Blue Book has been the industry standard for years, and nearly all car purchases use KBB as a starting reference point.  Cars are a high ticket item, a considered purchase, and a fairly liquid market, so it’s not surprising that in an offline world a third-party went through the process of aggregating the data to create a pricing guide for that market.

But what about other markets?  What about smaller purchase price items, or highly illiquid items that rarely trade hands?  In those categories creating a pricing guide would be useful, but it’s an impractical process in an offline world.

Spark is excited to annouce an investment today in Priceonomics, a company that has the bold ambition to be the pricing guide for everything.  If you’re looking to buy a bike, tent, juicer, kayak, wifi-router, motorcycle, or just about anything you can think of, Priceonomics will tell you what is a fair price range based on all the secondary transactions for the item happening online.  This is a data asset that can only be aggregated scalably in the internet era.

There are two data assets the company aggregates.  One is secondary prices for a wide variety of items, which is straightforward (what’s the mutually agreed purchase price for X).  The second asset is less straightforward, but equally important: Priceonomics scrapes the web in order to develop a product ontology.  They have the data to understand that the “Trek 820" is a model of bike that has been made since the 90s, the model number is 820, the manufacturer is Trek, and how the vintage (year manufactured) affects the resale price over time.  This is a complex and important problem, but the resulting user experience is pleasingly simply. For example, with a product ontology, it’s possible to offer intelligent autocompletion of product searches, which Priceonomics does well.

Spark is delighted to be working with Rohin, Michael, and Omar.  They are a great team with a humble yet aggressive attitude that are ready to take over the world. Follow their blog because it’s a really entertaining read: a witty combo of consumer behavioral psychology and data analysis.  And, of course, Priceonomics is hiring!

Try out the service the next time you’re considering a used purchase, and let me know what you think.