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Site Lets Consumers Make Their Own Reports

The modern consumer is overwhelmed with choices; hundreds of thousands of products and categories with no clear way to determine what works well. So develops yet another Internet-fueled hybrid; this time a blend of Consumer Reports and the Hyde Park Speaker's corner.

ConsumerREVIEW provides a forum for users and enthusiasts to say exactly how they feel about specific products, written from the vantage point of personal experience. It consists of 17 "vertical communities," from computing to fly fishing, centered around common product interests and soliciting open comments from all quarters. Anyone can write and post a review following a simple format, and the prospective buyer can base a purchasing decision on the results.

"We are going after passionate users who care how their opinions are expressed," company president Max Mancini said. "They express some kind of qualitative relationship with the product. They have also spent their own money, and will say whether or not it was a good deal."

The editors (each community is managed by a different person) won't correct grammar, spelling or mess with the content, unless the opinions expressed are uninformed or irresponsible.

"If a person doesn't express himself well, then some others may not listen to his opinion," Mancini said. "You need to determine whether you are going to pay attention to this opinion or not." He adds there have been some instances of fraudulent postings, but these are usually pretty easy to detect.

"Professional reviewers can never cover all of the products that we can cover," Mancini said. "Consumer-generated reviews level the playing field for products that are good quality, and expose things that are not the best value for consumers. The average enthusiast buys a lot of products and loves comparing them, and they are loyal to the community."

Mancini cites Bose speakers as an example: They are loved by the "professional" reviewers, but do not offer the best value.

In November 1998, the company received $1.5 million in original funding from Selby Ventures. In August 1999 it raised an additional $6 million in private equity funding from Friedli Corporate Finance, a Swiss-based venture capital firm. Mancini said it is currently preparing for a third round.

The company expects its revenue stream to come from advertising and embedded links to the product page.

Forrester analyst Lisa Allen likes the idea of ConsumerREVIEW, but is not sure about its ability to make money. "The Internet decimates the choke hold that traditional media companies have developed between readers and advertisers. Readers can talk to advertisers, or to one another. But putting content and commerce side by side in a community area can be a dicey proposition."

Allen said the advice presented online needs to be placed into context. "If you are buying something small and inexpensive, then you may listen to what someone in these communities has to say about that item. But if you are spending thirty grand on a new car you will want some more qualified information to support your decision although you still might want to consider what your neighbor has to say."

Company Name: ConsumerREVIEW.com
Address: 2933 Bunker Hill Lane Ste. 202, Santa Clara, CA 95125
Phone: 408/855-8100
Fax: 408/855-8184
Contact e-mail address/Web address: www.consumerreview.com
Total Funding: $7.5 million
Investors: Selby Ventures, Friedli Corporate Finance.


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