WhoDoYou takes to the ‘Big Stage’ as finalist in the TAU STARTUP Challenge 2014!

We’re proud to announce that WhoDoYou was selected as one of four finalists out of 120 entrants to compete in the TAU (Tel Aviv University) STARTUP Challenge 2014.

TAU Innovation Day

The contest took place at the TAU Innovation Day in Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s largest innovation conferences celebrating the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the ‘Start Up Nation’. Out of 120 startups, WhoDoYou was awarded 4th place in the competition. After a grueling day pitching WhoDoYou to an international judging panel, our very own Yoav Schwartz passed through three rounds of competition and took to the main keynote stage to pitch in front of three select judges and the conference crowd.

We’re honored that WhoDoYou has been recognized for creating an innovative and trusted way to find honest referrals for local businesses.

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Where do people go for local referrals, and where should they go?

Here at WhoDoYou we’ve been asked more than once ‘why not encourage people to ask friends for referrals directly on social media?’ i.e. why bother going to WhoDoYou, if most of the results on WhoDoYou come from social media to begin with?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Er, well, I suppose you didn’t ask, but I’m happy to answer because it’s yet another nuanced layer in the WhoDoYou solution that really creates user delight. Perhaps the most important part of the answer is this somewhat surprising, but eminently understandable fact: most of the time, we are consumers of, and not contributors to, social media.

Think about the percentage of time you spend reading what others have written, and how often you write. Now it’s true there are a small percentage of people that speak loud – and often – on social media. And that’s more than okay – the beauty of these platforms is that it allows each of us to find the balance with which we’re comfortable. For some it’s on the far quiet end, for others, it’s the three-times daily picture of what you’re eating and a running commentary of your thoughts, ideas, meetings and free-flow associations.

For our purpose, however, it’s a reminder that most people don’t actually like to post broadly to social media, particularly when asking favors of a broad group of people. Which is why, it’s very powerful to be part of a group where friends are asking for and giving referrals all the time, and these valuable nuggets can be re-used when the next person needs a local recommendation. That’s almost the dictionary definition of a community, where friends help each other, and in this case, the help keeps on giving because it’s stored, catalogued and searchable.

Which brings us back to the original question – should people go to Facebook or Twitter to ask for referrals, or go straight to WhoDoYou? Our answer: yes. If you prefer (or are willing to put up with) the experience of asking friends for help, go ahead! If the conversation is public, we’ll capture it for the next person who’s searching. And if you prefer to search directly on WhoDoYou, you’ll probably find great information from friends and neighbors. Either way you win, and that pleases us because our main goal is to help people find the best local businesses. If you can do that with WhoDoYou, great!

We welcome your feedback on the concepts here, and are always happy to discuss with our customers, users, partners and friends. Thanks in advance for your thoughts,

Yoav

Why Share?

It shouldn’t take much virtual ink to make a convincing case that sharing has become an integral part of our online experience. We share photos on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp; articles and art projects of interest on Twitter and Pinterest, and time-bombed content on SnapChat and the like. And while many reviews are written on a daily basis, there is something strange about this kind of user-generated content: people write but don’t often share reviews of local service providers. Clearly there is a very small segment of the population – the super-reviewers, community evangelists and frustrated writers – that look to publish whenever they can. But beyond this small minority, most people do not write reviews, and even fewer, share them.

Why is it that people are prepared to share so many intimate aspects of their lives, but by and large do not proactively share reviews? Making the question even more difficult to understand, people very regularly help their friends by answering questions about local businesses. When someone posts to Facebook ‘I need a dentist! It’s the weekend and my tooth is killing me!’ within minutes a response can be expected. Similarly when you receive a text message or email from a friend asking where you take your car for servicing, or your child to a pediatrician, you generally respond fairly quickly.

So, why do people broadcast lots of content proactively, yet rarely share that they’ve just had a great experience with an air conditioning repair person? From our somewhat unique vantage point, it’s easy to see how readily and prolifically referral requests made on social media are answered by friends and fellow group members. And we think we know why.

In essence, it boils down to one word: help. Humans are hard-wired to help each other – there’s nothing more basic than answering a friend’s question or helping out someone in need. When we are part of a community – of friends, colleagues, neighbors, team members, anything really – it feels good to help another member of the group.

However, people are much less likely to randomly help someone they don’t know; even less inclined to contribute helping content because it might potentially help some anonymous person in the future. It therefore stands to reason that most people don’t go out of their way to write reviews and share them out with the community unless they know someone in particular is looking for information. At WhoDoYou, our main focus is on cataloguing advice shared when one person is in need, and others respond to help so that everyone can benefit.

As more people come to WhoDoYou every day to find local providers, we get great feedback about the value and trustworthiness of the platform. More important, our users tend to find what they’re looking for, and have a high degree of satisfaction because they can rely on the authentic advice of their friends and neighbors.

So, we’ll continue to try and provide great recommendations when and where you need them. And if you find what you’re looking for, please think about sharing it back with your social network. You may not know when, but at some point, they’re going to need the help you can provide today. So, share the love!

Thanks and from all of us at WhoDoYou we wish you happy holidays,

Yoav

Launching The New WhoDoYou

Hello WhoDoYou-ers! Today we’re launching the next generation of WhoDoYou, with a brand new look that is re-designed and re-engineered to make it even easier for you to find and choose great local businesses.

While we’ve been hard at work developing some fancy new bells and whistles to make this the best ever version of WhoDoYou, what really matters is helping you find that trusted business when you need it. Think back to the last time you needed a locksmith to get into your locked out car, or to find a dentist that was open on a long weekend when your tooth wouldn’t stop aching. Where did you go to find someone you could trust? Who did you ask?

Serving up advice that could be used with confidence was the motivator for creating WhoDoYou in the first place. From the beginning we were – and remain – dedicated to helping you find the professionals you need, recommended by the people you trust.

So, what can you expect to see in the new WhoDoYou? First and foremost, it will be easier to find and contact businesses. We heard your feedback that showing conversations from trusted sources is great, but having the business listing is also very important. So, we’ve converted a majority of the recommendations into business profile pages – a mini landing page you’ll see for each local plumber, dentist or photographer when you click to see full details.

We’ve also worked hard to create a ranking and sorting mechanism that shows you the most relevant providers first. Notice the big ‘ol numbers at the right of each provider or recommendation card. These relevancy rankings are customized for each search, and include things like the number and quality of reviews, proximity to your search, and as you’d expect, a social weighting.

Of course we always encourage folks to log in, since that allows us to not only personalize your sort, but we can actually gather private recommendations from your Facebook friends and from people in your groups. These personal nuggets of advice will only show up for you – they are not public – but each one is worth its weight in gold since they come from your personal contacts. Our ultimate goal is to get you the best information. Quickly. And with high trust, so you can choose a great provider

We’ve also had many people ask us how they can view their own list of personal recommendations, and I’m pleased to say, we have an amazing new capability. Look at the picture of my vault below – you’ll note I have more than 1,000 recommendations from friends and groups. Starting today you too can see all those amazing bits of advice, easily sorted by overall category, and if you click on any of those fancy pictures, you can see every sub-category and every recommendation. It’s quite amazing, and we think you’ll be excited to see all that great, shared information available to you in one handy spot. Let us know what you think!

We hope you’ll also appreciate the improved experience across the site, but in particular, we believe you’ll be pleased to use the totally new mobile site. Now if you’re searching on the go it’ll be as easy on your phone to find what you’re looking for as on your desktop. In the coming weeks we’ll be releasing apps for Android and iPhone, so keep an eye out for those as well.

From a company perspective, this launch comes at an exciting time of growth. While there is still much to do, as of this month, we achieved some very meaningful milestones, including:

  • More than 500,000 recommendations converted from public social media conversations
  • Every day, in more than 500 US cities and 50 international markets, people are now finding local businesses on WhoDoYou. Every day! We couldn’t have imagined that just three, or certainly six months ago
  • And we recently closed a $900k seed round from top Israel and US-based angel investors, including Gigi Levy Weiss, Jonathan Medved, Net Jacobsson, HanJoo Lee and others

So, what comes next? Where do we start! We have lots of plans to continue enhancing the experience for our users, and for service providers that create business profiles. We’re excited about building the next stage, while continuing to maintain our primary focus on helping you, our user, find the professionals you need, recommended by the people you trust.

We look forward to keeping you informed, and hope you’ll send us a note if you have any feedback on the company, the product, or this blog. Send to feedback@whodoyou.com, or to me directly – yoav@whodoyou.com.

Thanks for your support.

Yoav

WhoDoYou selected as a finalist to compete in the BIA Kelsey LOCAL LiftOff Awards

We’re super excited to announce that WhoDoYou has been named a LEADING IN LOCAL future star by BIA Kelsey and selected as a finalist to compete in the LOCAL LiftOff Awards held in San Francisco this week.

The contest will take place at the LEADING IN LOCAL: Interactive Local Media conference. WhoDoYou will compete against 10 startups with the audience voting for their favorite at the end of the three-day conference.

We care a tremendous amount about creating an innovative and trusted resource and to ensure that consumers and service providers find our site valuable. We’re proud and honored that WhoDoYou has been recognized for this by being shortlisted.

It’s still early days yet but these awards will help us spread the word that there is quite simply one place to go for finding and sharing trusted recommendations.

So, wish us luck and if you’re in San Francisco come and vote for us! Find out more about the conference and awards.

Finding Trusted Providers – What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Here at WhoDoYou we can sometimes seem a little obsessed with finding trusted service providers. If you’ve never had a bad experience with a local pro, well, you’re pretty darn lucky. But if you’re like the rest of us that periodically has had some difficulties, you’ll likely recognize how helpful it is to have a service like WhoDoYou – one place to find the most highly-recommended local businesses. And if you’ve ever had a truly horrible experience, you can at least know that you’re not alone.

See below for the true story that a WhoDoYou user recently sent us (this account has not been edited or modified in any way, except to remove the author’s name):

“I know this will sound like a paid or solicited ad but it’s not! Last Monday night we had a terrible experience that would have been completely avoided if we had simply consulted WhoDoYou. I will NEVER make that mistake again. In short, at 9:30 pm when one of our kids finished showering, water started to back up in the bathroom, pouring out from behind a cabinet, filling the bathroom floor. We were anxious having had one other water issue in the house, but we did not have a regular plumber to call, and just that day had received a magnet on our mailbox advertising a 24-hour emergency plumbing service. I did think about logging in to WhoDoYou to find out who friends of ours recommended, but really it was quicker just to call the number and I wanted someone to come quickly to get the situation under control. Well, what an enormous mistake that turned out to be.

They came, the plumber and his assistant. The water issue got far worse before better, at one point water was literally flowing through the upstairs hallway and down the stairs. They claimed a pipe cracked as they were working on it, but they then “fixed” it (we could not see the pipe ourselves), there was an enormous mess and all along they assured us they would fix the problem but that it was all going to be very expensive. When there is water pouring through your house your main concern is that they stop it and get it under control before damage is done. We did not ask prices, they did not offer, we were trying to get the water to stop flowing. Three hours later it was all finished and fixed (so it seemed, anyway) and they quoted us the most outrageous sum of money. Something BEYOND what we could have possibly imagined. We argued and they argued, but at 1 o’clock in the morning when there are two large men standing in your home who have seen your four children (now sleeping), men you really know nothing about and they are demanding money, you do what you feel you need to do. So we paid them this crazy sum, in 3 checks (two post-dated) and they left.

We were traumatized that night and the next day (and somewhat still). The next night water backed up again, and this time we took the time to consult WhoDoYou and found a plumber recommended by friends. He came and was honest and experienced and he fixed one small thing that the previous “plumbers” had not. I told him the story and he confirmed that we were truly scammed by those other plumbers, paying about seven times the highest reasonable rate. We checked with one more plumber who confirmed the same.

We feel so sick about this and we have hired a lawyer now to get our money back, but it is unlikely. We have learned a lot, most of all that we should always get a personal recommendation before bringing workers into our home. We will definitely start checking WhoDoYou from now on when we have to hire people for the house.”

For obvious reasons, we have not included this user’s name, and we hope they do get their money back from the unscrupulous plumbers. It is truly our mission at WhoDoYou to help you and your friends avoid these kinds of situations. So please try WhoDoYou the next time you need a trusted provider. After all, the worst that could happen could actually turn out to be pretty bad…

Comments and feedback are welcome, as always. Thanks!

Yoav

Reflections on building a great team

For anyone that’s read this blog even somewhat consistently, you know that our primary focus has been on the product value we are trying to build, and the need for a solution like WhoDoYou. While this stuff gets us pretty jazzed, there may be some for whom the local, social search space isn’t so interesting.

And now that we are actively looking to bring on some great new team members, I thought it would be useful to highlight a recent article: http://linkd.in/122sZon.
The primary focus is on the difficulty of hiring, which seemed compelling enough on its own merit to share. In addition, it’s worth talking about this article as a means of highlighting some of the values we like to promote at WhoDoYou.

So, high level, the article describes Google’s big data approach to finding hiring best practices. Biggest surprise #1? There are no consistently good hiring managers (though there are some consistently bad ones). It turns out that hiring successful performers tends to be very, very difficult, and mostly random. Biggest surprise #2? GPA has almost no correlation with successful performance. Although this one didn’t surprise me so much, it’s an important reminder that people change a lot over time. Looking at one’s degree, or GPA is only one small factor in considering a person’s potential contribution to an organization.

Finally, what does this say about the values of WhoDoYou, and our desire to build a great company? Well, it may sound pretty basic, but we like to think of ourselves as a fairly humble group. We work hard, push the limits of what’s possible to do – technically and otherwise – and are open to great people of all types. We believe there is not a single mold for greatness, and if there is, we certainly haven’t found it.

With that said, we are currently looking for great talent. If you are passionate about helping people find great local businesses, love social media, and want nothing more than to delight customers (or if you’re a super-geek developer who eats code for breakfast), then please drop us a line to feedback@whodoyou.com. We want to speak with you!

As always, thanks for your comments and feedback,
Yoav and the WhoDoYou team

What are the top recommendation requests on Facebook?

Facebook handles one billion search queries every day. That’s a heck of a lot of searching, and you might be wondering what people are searching for, and what are they finding? Well, social search is rapidly moving beyond keywords and tags to people wanting answers to specific questions, such as “Can anyone recommend a good mechanic to fix my car?” WhoDoYou is leading the charge to provide great responses to these kinds of questions by collecting and organizing recommendations from friends, groups and the local Facebook community.

An interesting by-product of our method for gathering questions and answers about great businesses is the ability to see what service provider categories are most requested on Facebook (only in relation to local business recommendations). We are happy to share – mostly to satisfy curiosity – that the number one category people search for on Facebook is, drumroll please… Dentist!

It makes sense if you think about it because most people who are searching for a local provider prefer to get suggestions from their friends. While some categories might not be a fit for asking a Facebook friend – you can use your imagination here – there are others which make a lot of sense. Dentist is one of them. You want to find a dentist that your friends trust, rather than sit quivering in the dentist’s chair afraid to open your mouth because you picked your dentist blindly out of the Yellow Pages.  Obviously there are many more insights we are gathering, and we’ll be happy to share more info with you over time.

Stay tuned for more interesting updates and don’t forget to subscribe to the feed if you’re interested in hearing more.

Yoav and the WhoDoYou team

What Gets Us Excited?

When we founded WhoDoYou, our mission was to create a trusted place to find great local businesses recommended by friends & neighbors. So, it isn’t surprising that one of the things that gets us most excited is seeing people use our service and finding providers they can trust.

Traditionally people search for a service provider based on proximity or availability. Very often we lack information about whether the provider is actually someone who has given good service to a friend, or someone you know. But directory- based search has begun to take a backseat to social search. Most of us want more than just a phone number or a warm body. We want someone we can trust, based on a personalized recommendation. These word-of-mouth recommendations are at the very heart of what WhoDoYou is about.

FB recos from web (Copy)

As we continue to evolve the WhoDoYou service and improve the site, one of the things that we look at most carefully is how successful our users are when they come to find a local service provider. We’re excited to say (and a little proud) that lately we have found that most people who come to the site end up finding someone in their area that can help them with a local service. This makes us super happy. Here’s what a recent user wrote to us, unprompted:

“Thank you to WhoDoYou for your recommendation – Mishaan Plumbing – they were here EXACTLY when they said they would be. Finished the job, cleaned up after and were well priced!!!”

We hope WhoDoYou makes it easier for you to find great local businesses and as always we welcome your feedback! Just email feedback@whodoyou.com.

Yoav and the WhoDoYou team

The Power of Your Vault

real vault 1336 recommendations bigger

When we last spoke, it was to announce our launch of the new WhoDoYou. We were excited about many of the new features and capabilities, but none more than ‘The Vault.’ We’ve gotten some very excited reactions from our loyal users, and a few questions, so it seemed in order to explain in a bit more detail what this vault is really about, and how it can be useful for you.

Let’s start from the beginning. Most Facebook users can relate to the experience of trying to find an old post. It’s awful! Doubly frustrating is when you know someone posted some advice, a link or even a recommendation that you could really use now. Trying to dig back through old posts and find these little bits of gold is somewhere between very difficult, and impossible.

The classic example is when one of your friends posts a comment like: “My car broke down this morning and I’m in dire need of a good mechanic who won’t charge an arm and a leg. Please help Facebook peeps!”  In most cases, friends will reply with a combination of empathy, jokes (you know who you are), and recommendations, e.g. “My guy Joe is amazing, been using him for years. Call him at 555-1212 and tell him I sent you.”

Before WhoDoYou rolled out the vault, there was almost no way for you to go back and find the name and number of that mechanic. But now, when you log in with WhoDoYou, we’ll search through these old comments, and discussions in any of your groups, and automatically categorize the relevant posts for your benefit. In this case, we would identify that a friend recommended a mechanic, in your area, and we would place it in your vault for future reference. Then, if you ever did a search on the site, not only would we show you reviews and recommendations from others in your area, but we’d also show – only to you – the recommendations that come from your personal network.

You can also see how many friendly recommendations you have per category. Just go to the vault, look down the left side of the page, and you’ll see a list of categories with the number of recommendations in parentheses. It’s pretty cool – try it out and see how many you’ve got!

My vault filter new

A few other points to keep in mind. First, the vault continues to get better over time. As you and your friends share recommendations on Facebook, join more groups, add more friends, or write reviews on WhoDoYou, we’ll update your results when you return to the vault. Second, we only process posts that relate to local business categories, so we won’t store any additional information that’s unrelated to the recommendations you care about. And finally, the information gleaned from your friends, and discussed in your groups, is for your eyes only. At some point we may offer you the option to share your recommendations with friends, but that’s not something we would do on your behalf.

We hope you find many good recommendations in your vault, and in the coming weeks we’ll update you on other features and capabilities which may help you in finding the best local service providers, recommended by your friends.

As always, we welcome your feedback, so please feel free to contact us at feedback@whodoyou.com. Thanks!

Yoav and the WhoDoYou team