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Can Entrepreneur Kevin O'Connor Pull Off a Double Trick?


Kevin O'Connor knows all about scalability and grabbing the Internet's brass ring. He and fellow entrepreneur Dwight Merriman founded DoubleClick in an Atlanta suburb in 1995. Their brainchild revolutionized web advertising and rapidly became a global firm with 2,500 employees.

Ten years later the company was sold to a San Francisco private equity firm in for $1.1 billion, subsequently to be gobbled up by Google in 2007 for $3.1 billion. For a brief spell, O'Connor became a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

But the entrepreneurial urge was to too strong to resist. Last year O'Connor co-founded FindTheBest.com, a comparison engine based in Santa Barbara, Calif., that he thinks will usher in the next era of consumer web search. Will he and his new 15-employee enterprise scale like DoubleClick did and send the same kind of transformative wave through the Web? Can O'Connor grab the brass ring twice?

[Want to learn more about Web research?]

The earmarks are all there and FindtheBest is showing signs of a classic hockey-stick takeoff trajectory. Already the site gets 1.5 million unique visitors a month and offers more than 900 different comparison applications in 10 categories ranging from autos and education to software and travel and recreation. The growth, says O'Connor, is all home-grown organic, with no paid traffic.

Beyond search

FindTheBest is an objective comparison search engine that allows you to find a topic, compare your options and decide what's best for you, O'Connor said. It allows you to make faster and more informed decisions by allowing you to easily compare all the available options.

The hallmark of FindtheBest comparison results, O'Connor said, is that they present an apples-to-apples look at the key factors, like the comparables Realtors use in pricing houses.

"We have a very good system of assimilating a lot of data sources and presenting an aggregated view to consumers," O'Connor told BusinessNewsDaily. "We want this data to be alive and as accurate as possible."

As with projects launched by many innovators, FindtheBest had its origins in a personal quest.

"I was trying to make big decisions in life," O'Connor said. "I couldn't find a good source for help. I just got obsessed again. I couldn't go to sleep and couldn't stop thinking."

Make complicated decisions easy

The mission for FindtheBest is to make complicated decisions easy, O'Connor said. Its best-use case scenario is for decisions that are highly considered and involve a number of critical decision factors.

"Tell us what's important and we'll narrow down your decision," he said.

Unlike scrapers that scavenge the web for data, O'Connor's comparison engine attempts to find original source data as well as public domain databases. The sources are curated by people who vet the relevance and authority of the data sources. The goal is to mimic the usual human winnowing process using the best data available.

"Insurance was hard because there were a lot of different databases we had to consult," he said.

Drills deeper

What sets FindtheBest apart from competitors such as J.D. Powers is that O'Connor's service drills deeper into the data and provides users with a comprehensive set of tools to slice, dice and manipulate the data. The service is free for users and is currently free of advertising and marketing.

"We'll never do a pay-to-play," O'Connor said.

The business model is pretty simple, he said.

"We always focus on what the largest customer's pain point is," he said. "The best way to win a market is to solve the biggest problems better than anyone else."

Exit strategy is not part of O'Connor's vocabulary.

No exit strategy

"I don't know what an exit strategy is," he said. His goal with FindtheBest is to "build a great product, a great company and become the most trusted source for consumers and businesses to make decisions."

The company is clearly in a growth mode, which is the sweet spot in a company's life cycle for O'Connor.

"I actually prefer small businesses," he said. "I love early-stage growth companies."

O'Connor is proud of the company's competitive culture, one that takes advantage of the temperate weather for year-round outdoor activity.

"We play football three times a week and ultimate Frisbee," O'Connor said.

When FindtheBest looks to recruit new people, he looks for people who are really smart and competitive.

"We play smash-mouth football," O'Connor said.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.