Post-DoubleClick, CEO O’Connor Parsing Purchase Intent With FindTheBest

It was 17 years ago that he founded the pioneering Internet advertising company, DoubleClick – and over four years since he helped sell it.

But, original DoubleClick founder Kevin O’Connor can’t get the entrepreneurial bug out of his system and has targeted “recommendations” with a 60-person firm he co-founded in 2009 called FindTheBest.

Like the self-explanatory name, O’Connor is blunt on the problem he set out to solve with FindTheBest : “The Internet was full of garbage – a lot of distrustful information, affiliate shills, people telling you what was best even though they were getting paid to say it.”

He believed that air travel site Kayak was an early turning point against the flotsam by putting recommendation tools in the consumers’ hands.  Inspired, and with the backing of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, he set out to help with thousands of other decisions in life saying, “Marketers used to have all the power of information, but it’s been shifting over the last 10 years. Today, consumers have all the information to make big decisions.”

AdExchanger spoke to O’Connor recently about his company…

This often used phrase “big data” — is that something you’re thinking about with FindTheBest?

KEVIN O’CONNOR: I’ve been obsessed with data for 20 years.  With DoubleClick, it was all about who could predict which ad the consumer was going to respond to. FindTheBest is using data to drive decisions.  But, the real challenge with big data is – what useful information can you use to either predict an outcome or drive a decision?

We’re focused on taking big data and making it small data – manageable. We’re figuring out the taxonomy for every decision.  How people make decisions is the same across categories, but obviously the data’s completely different.

So we take big data and make it what we call “consumerable,” making it usable by the consumer or business.

How is recommendation different than something like search?

Search is great for finding any bit of information that you want. But, if you want to find what ski resort in Colorado has the most snow, search is terrible. It’s terrible for driving a decision.

This is the next evolution of services – vertical services. How do you parse down web pages and organize them along a topic so you can compare things?

People have done this in travel and shopping comparisons, but they haven’t been able to do it in a broad area. They try. Google tried it in Googlesphere. It didn’t work very well.

Part of it’s a megabit problem, too.

How does this all relate to your previous work with DoubleClick?

One thing we saw with DoubleClick was that was one piece of overwhelmingly valuable data – purchase intent data.  Interests, psychographics, or even context, it really comes down to purchase intent.

So is FindTheBest data, purchase intent data?

Yes. For example, it’s someone comparing a Tacoma [truck] to an F‑150 – it’s about as strong an indicator as you can get that users are interested in buying a truck.   If the user is comparing nursing homes in Santa Barbara, they’re probably looking for a nursing home.

What is the most popular use case right now that you’re seeing with FindTheBest?

Our most popular comparisons are things like cars, colleges, financial advisors, CRM software. We have over 300