13 1 / 2013
Today is a sad day for all of us because today we’re shutting down PriceFlurry. Why we decided to do this? Let me explain.
An idea for PriceFlurry was an “organic” idea meaning that we didn’t make it up just because we wanted to build something (like, “okay, we need an idea for a cool product that we can sell to many people and get rich and famous”). The idea came up naturally when we were planning a trip and had to estimate our expenses first. While it was very easy to find out how much money you’d spend on a flight ticket or a hotel room, things like what’s the average bill in the local restaurant of how much that excursion costs were not that easy to find (you had to go though various forum posts and online reviews and extract price information from the text which was very inconvenient). So we thought how cool it would be to have a central database for prices where consumers themselves could contribute!
So we started building. And since PriceFlurry was our first startup, we made many mistakes throughout the process. First of all, we didn’t have a plan for an MVP (Minimum Valuable Product). In fact, at that time I didn’t even know what MVP was. But it’s now clear that instead of spending nearly ten months programming and designing the product (and being in our own “bubble” with no communication with the potential users) we needed to make a prototype first, something that people could start using right away. After presenting users with the prototype we would get feedback and adjust the concept and functionality according to what our users would be telling us. But we didn’t do that. We thought “it’s so cool, they’re definitely going to love this”. At the end, nearly half of what was made during these ten months wasn’t used at all and so even though the technology was great (many things were implemented ensuring that the service would scale easily) the time and resources were wasted.
Next, there’s an idea itself. Paul Graham recently posted an essay about how to get startup ideas where he makes a following statement about bad startup ideas (a quote regarding a social network for pet owners):
The danger of an idea like this is that when you run it by your friends with pets, they don’t say “I would never use this.” They say “Yeah, maybe I could see using something like that.” Even when the startup launches, it will sound plausible to a lot of people. They don’t want to use it themselves, at least not right now, but they could imagine other people wanting it. Sum that reaction across the entire population, and you have zero users.
And this is exactly what happened to PriceFlurry. Many of my friends were saying “I really like your idea, I think it will succeed” and at the same time none of them was contributing to it. So it was basically me, my partner and a couple of other people who was adding reviews. We clearly saw a problem with the content (many times I had to explain to people that why they can’t find anything is because it’s a user-generated content and there was simply no content generated according to their search queries). Some of the people were telling me just to try to aggregate price information from other services (like eBay or Amazon) or use other tools and methods for bringing initial content to the website. While I was considering something like this, it certainly didn’t fit into the concept of the service (“prices reported by other consumers”) and so I never really had a good solution. What we have chosen to do after the second unsuccessful launch is that we will try to get a critical mass by, for example, re-prioritizing and implementing all those social features that were planned to be done “at some point” (this is when I implemented public profiles, points, badges, notifications and so on). At the same time we were hoping that we could attract users by partnering with local businesses who could reward people for writing about them on PriceFlurry (a concept similar to how businesses use Foursquare mayorship status). But this concept never saw the light mainly because at the end I just decided to postpone its execution (even though I had a couple of restaurant owners who were interested) because it wasn’t thought through that well and I was afraid that users will start abusing the service and local businesses will lose reputation by denying to reward even the loyal customers.
Next, there’s money. We were paying everything from our own pockets (web hosting, tools, some promo material, etc.). It wasn’t that much but we knew that we need a lot more to promote the product (we always thought that it’s a great idea and people just need to get to know it). And of course it was kind of silly to seek for investments when the service had almost zero traction.
And so, I woke up one morning I thought “This is the end, you have to let it go”. We tried many things, we went to conferences and local events, we were rapidly improving the functionality hoping that this will attract more users, etc. But we weren’t noticing (or didn’t want to notice) those signals telling us that this baby is not going to fly. Yes, we spent a relatively big amount of money on this. Yes, I didn’t have a single weekend for the last fifteen months. And yes, it’s sad to see that people didn’t appreciate something that you put your soul into. But I think I got a lot more in return - experience. Next time I won’t be making the same mistakes. I read in multiple blog posts that an entrepreneur needs to fail several times first before reaching the success (maybe I just thought I’m special, but I guess that’s the common feeling among first-time entrepreneurs). And at the time of writing I already have another idea that I’m going to proceed with, I hardware startup that I will be doing with my father (something that I always wanted to do - a family business with my father who’s a great business man and a brilliant technician).
So, we’re saying “Goodbye” to PriceFlurry and a huge “Thank you” to all of those who was supporting us in our journey.
Pavel Volgarev & Artem Manchenko
08 12 / 2012
We’re very excited to tell you about several new cool features and improvements that we’ve been working on for a last couple of weeks. This time we focused on social aspect and the way people interact with each other on PriceFlurry.
First of all, we introduced public user profiles. Previously you had no way of viewing someone else’s profile page because the link to it simply wasn’t available. Now it’s possible, check out Pavel’s profile page. The link to your public profile can find found right beneath your name (“Public profile”).
Of course, when it comes to viewing someone else’s social profile, privacy is a very important thing (you might not want the visitors of your page to see certain reviews, places or any other kind of your activity). And of course, we took this into consideration. On your profile page you can now set whether it’s visible to outside world or not:
Right now it’s “all or nothing” meaning that you currently can’t change the privacy settings for individual sections/users. This functionality will be introduced a bit later.
We also improved the profile page itself quite a bit. Here’s an overview:
Just look at it - it’s awesome! :-) The activity stream is now much more informative, with icons for relevant action types, containing review and user permalinks. Some of the information went on a right side (like recent and favorite places) and is now easier accessible. Here’s a bit bigger image of the activity stream:
As I mentioned earlier, the lists of recent and favorite places are now situated on a right side of the screen. But it’s not just a bunch of links - you can quickly view the place on a map by clicking the address (it works the same way throughout the website bringing you the modal dialog with the map and links for viewing the place using different map services). In case of favorite places, you can remove the place from your favorites by clicking the star icon right in the list (no need to navigate to a place details page):
And the last but not least: we introduced followers. It’s now possible to subscribe to a given person so you will receive notifications about his reviews and likes (of course unless the user chose to have private profile). Now you can find people who have similar “taste” in shopping as you do and follow their findings!
The “Follow” button is placed as well on the right side of the user profile page:
When someone follows you, you will receive a corresponding notification. Although you wouldn’t know when someone unfollows you ;-)
So, with these features PriceFlurry just become much more engaging and fun. Enjoy and let us know what you think either in the comments or by using our support page.
24 11 / 2012
So, the Slush conference is over. A great experience, indeed. It was the first time we attended such a big startup event, we met a lot of great people and we learned a ton about running the startup.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the semi-finals within our Lightweight Track (small startups with no to little revenue and no funding so far). There were 20 companies in our batch and only 4 could proceed to the next round. Every company only had 2 minutes to pitch their idea to the jury and the crowd (by the way, the interest from other participants was massive: the hall was full of people, both seating and standing). We were pretty optimistic at the beginning and my presentation went smoothly. Although the response from the jury was not that good as we expected (not that many questions and one of the judges didn’t like the idea at all, so he was completely silent), we still hoped to get to the next round. But of course, the market opportunity and the current traction matters a lot as well. For example, the “4 million impressions per month” by Copygram co-founder blew everybody away and the guys eventually got to the semi-finals. We couldn’t tell the same about PriceFlurry.
But the good thing is that I eventually managed to chat with two of the judges (including the one who seemed pessimistic about our idea) and got quite some feedback on how to improve. Special thanks to Sean Seton-Rogers from PROfounders Capital. He was among the jury and I got great feedback from him.
Another great thing that happened at the conference was the ability to chat with Kippt founders, who recently graduated from YCombinator. It was a round table session where several (I think we were 7) selected startups could pitch their ideas, get feedback and ask questions. Again, it was awesome!
We also met a lot of amazing people from Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Kudos to the Skolkovo guys working on commercial OCR (it’s worth mentioning that Skolkovo was one of the main sponsors of Slush, they brought around 15 startups to the conference and had a dedicated hall) and Evil Martians presenting oh my stats!
In general, we think that Slush is a great opportunity for eastern Europe startups to expose themselves, get feedback on their ideas, learn about other people’s ideas, establish new connections and maybe raise some money. But we hope next time the space for the conference will be bigger (there were around 3,000 people in there and it was very crowdy the fist day), and the organizers will make an afterparty after the second day rather than after the first one ;-)
I think we will definitely attend Slush 2013 but this time we will have a demo booth because it’s a great way to showcase your product and get potential customers.
18 11 / 2012
Good day everybody!
So, we just rolled out the next major update of PriceFlurry and here’s what’s included in it:
- Danish localization of the website.
- Points & badges system.
- Many bugs fixed and many small improvements made.
First of all, the website is now localized into Danish (ja, vi taler Dansk nu!), the new language is available from the toolbar.
We also introduced some gamification features that will make the service more engaging. Let me briefly tell you about those features.
Now every time you submit a review on PriceFlurry you earn a specific number of points. The purpose of points is for others to see how active the particular user is and the points can also be used for measuring the trust level. You can also earn points if you comment on someone else’s review or if someone presses “Like” next to your own reviews. Below is how we give points depending on the user action:
- Submit review - 10 points.
- Comment on someone else’s review - 3 points.
- Someone else pressed “Like” next to your review - 5 points.
Points are never reset and you can never receive negative points.
You can also receive badges that are essentially a way of showing others “Look, this guy has done something special”. Currently there are two types of badges:
- An Expert badge which is given for submitting 6 or more reviews for a given place.
- A Valued Customer badge for submitting reviews for the total amount greater or equal to 100 U.S. dollars (or its equivalent in different currency).
A badge is only valid for the current month and is removed at the beginning of the next one (even if you got a badge on November 30th, on December 1st the badge will be no longer valid and you will have to start all over again). Several users can have the same badge for the same place.
Here’s how the user profile page has changed (notice “points” and “badges” sections):
The list of current badge owners is also displayed on the place details page. Here’s how it looks (the score for each badge is dependent on the effort the user took to get this badge, for example, a maximum price he reported):
This points system has its special purpose which we will tell you about a bit later (trust me, you will like it).
So that’s basically it. Again, thank you all very much for your valuable feedback and we hope you liked the new features.
P.S. We will be attending a big startup conference called Slush which will take place in Helsinki next week (Nov. 21-22, 2012) so keep your fingers crossed for us since we’re going to pitch PriceFlurry to potential investors ;-)
Happy price hunting and see you soon!
22 9 / 2012
Hello fellow shoppers!
Today we want to tell you about one of the latest improvements on PriceFlurry - notifications. Some of you might have noticed that when someone presses “Like” or comments on your review, you have no chances of knowing about this happened (except of checking review manually) so the collaboration aspect of PriceFlurry was kind of broken. But we’re about to fix it, starting from today with an introduction of website notifications.
First of all, we redesigned the right section of the toolbar. Here’s how it looked originally:
And here’s how it looks now:
So we made it a bit cleaner and more informative. Notice a small red square next to the user name. This is the current number of new (unread) notifications.
Next, the user profile page got a complete redesign. Here’s the overall look:
Again, here we tried to give you a better overview of your activity on PriceFlurry. There’s now a new section called “Notifications” that displays the last 20 notifications:
The notifications are currently implemented on the website only. But you should expect the same functionality to be added into mobile apps very soon. Plus, the API documentation will be also updated to reflect these changes.
30 8 / 2012
Great, great news for all the developers out there. We just released our RESTful API to the public. This means that you can now start integrating your websites and other applications with PriceFlurry.
To get started, go to http://priceflurry.com/developers/signup and apply for an API key (we’re currently on “invite-only” mode but hope to get real public soon).
Check out our API documentation at http://priceflurry.com/api, there’s lots of cool stuff you can do.
Please give us your feedback by using our Google Groups page.
29 8 / 2012
It was a very busy month, for sure. But we’re pleased to finally announce about the first major update of the PriceFlurry.
The first thing that we’d like to tell you about (and we’re very excited about this) is the release of the official PriceFlurry app for Windows Phone (to be available on marketplace in September, 2012)! It’s a full featured app that allows you to search, share and save your reviews. Here are some screenshots of the app:
You might ask why we first made an app for Windows Phone and not for iOS/Android. There are several reasons for that. The first one is that we’re more familiar with .NET programming stack and so it was much easier for us to build something based on a well-known technologies. Plus, at first we didn’t have a clear specification that we could pass to a developer on a side so making a first app “in-house” really helped us to figure out what needs to be done on other platforms. The last (but not least) reason is that our RESTful APIs are still in beta and so we needed to test them first before porting client libraries to other platforms and languages (right now we only have a .NET class library available). But we certainly understand the importance of having a native apps for iPhone and Android and so these apps will arrive shortly, just be patient.
Another great improvement that we made is that PriceFlurry can now be accessed from any mobile device by navigating to m.priceflurry.com. Although, the functionality that the mobile version provides is pretty basic (searching and adding reviews), it is still very useful for those who want to use PriceFlurry on the go and don’t have access to specialized app.
We also did quite a lot of work on the website itself. In particular, we redesigned the frontpage which now looks less “enterprise” and more clean, user-friendly and colorful. Apart from doing the design work we fixed the number of functionality and usability issues.
We’d like to say “Thank you” to all our users who was providing us with their feedback and guiding us into the right direction. You’re awesome!
08 7 / 2012
We’re very excited to finally, after ten months of intensive development, present your our product - PriceFlurry.
The idea behind PriceFlurry is pretty simple: to allow people to be able to find information about the cost of different goods and services based on findings made by other consumers. Because everybody can leave price reviews, the information that you can find on PriceFlurry is usually pretty up-to-date and so you can trust it.
But PriceFlurry is not just a wiki-like website for collecting prices. It’s a tool that can help you save money if you’re a consumer. It’s also a platform that can help you understand your customers better if you’re a local business. It’s free and doesn’t require you to register to get started. We tried to make it very user-friendly and simple to use. And we hope that we succeeded.
The idea for PriceFlurry came up spontaneously and we initially designed the service based on our own needs. We like the result very much and we hope that you will like it as well.