Great news… Selloscope just got some great news coverage by Haydn Shaughnessy over on the Forbes Re: Thinking Innovation blog! We’ve had a great day and received some fantastic press. On behalf of Selloscope, I want to extend a sincere thanks to our Facebook and Twitter friends, old and new, who helped us get the word out. Thanks for all your support!
We’re huge fans around here of all things board-game related. Being the board game geeks we are, and living in Dallas, it was an absolute requirement that we attend last year’s BGGCon board game convention. BGGCon is five solid days of heaven for board game geeks.
G4 TV just got around to posting some video of the event, and we’re in the background! We’ve had a great time with this, and I hope you do too: First person to spot Jeb in the video and send us the time stamp gets a free month of Selloscope for their business. Hope to hear from you, and don’t miss BGGCon this year!
In October 2006, the Netflix Prize brought recommendation technology into the public consciousness by offering a prize of US$1,000,000 to anyone who could improve Netflix’ own Cinematch algorithm. The contest was seemingly simple: Improve the ability to predict users’ ratings of films by 10%. Over 40,000 teams from 186 countries participated in this colossal experiment in open innovation to create a better theory of collaborative filtering and recommender systems. The stakes were high and the competition was fierce. Nearly three years later, Netflix awarded the million-dollar grand prize to the team (“BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos”) which had achieved a 10.05% improvement over Cinematch — largely through the combination of algorithms from multiple teams and complex data fitting techniques.
At about that same time, social science researchers Matthew Salganik, Peter Dodds, and Duncan Watts were making exponential advances in the theory of recommendation technology through their behavioral studies of cultural markets while Netflix competitors struggled to produce just a 10% improvement. This work on cultural markets demonstrated that social influence — marketing, media attention, critical acclaim, keeping up with the Joneses — makes it very difficult to tell the most-popular goods apart from the almost-popular goods. Yet this groundbreaking work on social influence went seemingly unnoticed by the field of Netflix competitors. While recent advances such as PureSVD have have begun to outperform existing models, Netflix continues to frustrate its subscribers to this day by recommending an unending series of movies they probably won’t hate, but simply have little interest in seeing.
We’re very excited to announce Selloscope’s official launch! We’ve been working for over a year putting together what we believe is the best recommender technology on the market. If your business or application can benefit from offering users with the products or content they’re most likely to purchase or consume, Selloscope can help.
The Selloscope team is dizzy with excitement about its goal to transform recommendation technology into an affordable and indispensible building block for social and ecommerce applications across the Web and beyond.
What is Selloscope?
If you’re familiar with Amazon.com, you may have seen a feature, “Customers who bought this also bought…” Match.com offers “More Like This” recommendations to help you find similar-looking users. Or you may recall the Netflix Prize, a Million Dollar competition to improve Netflix’s movie recommendation technology.
Companies like Amazon, Match.com, and Netflix make recommendations to their users to increase conversion, revenue, and retention. You can too.
Selloscope is an online recommendation engine that helps marketing managers, email marketers, Web sites, bloggers, and even brick-and-mortar businesses present the right item to the right user at the right time – whether you’re a top-notch application developer, or a marketing manager armed with nothing but a spreadsheet and a mean deadline. If your business or application can benefit from offering users with the products or content they’re most likely to purchase or consume, read on.
At Selloscope we’re big fans of Microsoft technology. We’ll leave the open-source versus proprietary software debate to others, but we did want to spread the word about Microsoft’s fantastic BizSpark program for startups.
BizSpark makes Microsoft technology, including Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN, Windows Server, and SQL Server 2008 available for free to startups for three years. This is an unbelievable deal for startups like Selloscope, allowing us to leverage our expertise in Microsoft technologies to bring a product to market. Even better: If, after three years your startup hasn’t gone public, sold, or made a million bucks, you get to keep using that software for free.
In the past, even for those of us who work extensively with Microsoft technology, there were some great arguments for using open-source technology for your startup. With BizSpark, we Visual Studio and SQL Server geeks can now compete with the open-source guys without having the additional worry of startup technology costs.
You do have to apply and qualify for the BizSpark program, and getting approved doesn’t happen overnight. However, with Microsoft’s liberal trial programs for its software, it’s still entirely possible to get a site up over a weekend. The only formality Selloscope faced in the approval process was that Microsoft seemed to want a working home page on the Web and an email from our domain before we got approved. Once we had that, we got our approval and our BizSpark software in just a few days.
Don’t forget to check out Selloscope’s page on Microsoft BizSpark Connect. Thanks BizSpark, we couldn’t do it without you.
Just a quick update from the Selloscope team: Selloscope is now live and accepting pre-registrations! Full functionality will go live in late September 2010.
Our tagline at launch is:
Take the guesswork out of merchandising.
Show your users what’s relevant to them
with Selloscope’s Relevance Engine.
We felt it applied to well to our broad audience — an audience tasked with presenting choices or making sales offers to customers or potential customers. (And, all to often, just having to keep their fingers crossed. We’re ready to help with that.)
I wanted to share a few of the taglines we considered back in Selloscope’s early days of development… it’s fun to see where we were, and I think taken together they’re a great insight into the service Selloscope provides. Here are just a few:
Customers who purchased this also bought ______.
(We can help with that .)
Take the guesswork out of merchandising. Be the up-sell / cross-sell guru.
PhD-designed recommendation technology powers your merchandising, your email campaigns, your web site — starting at ten bucks a month.
Automated merchandising and recommendation technology for your web site and marketing campaigns.
(Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.)
Selloscope’s recommendation engine tells you what products your customers want to see next. We crunch the data, you cash the checks.
Selloscope is an online recommendation engine that makes it easy for marketers and merchandisers, email marketers, content sites, developers and entrepreneurs to present the right item to the right user at the right time. Increase your sales, page views, and conversion rate: show users what’s relevant to them with Selloscope’s Relevance Engine.
Remember the Netflix Prize? I do. It completely changed how I think about recommendation technology and collaborative filtering and inspired me to create something better. Something that just works. Now, Selloscope is about to change the way recommendations, personalization, and upsell work on the Web — by making recommendation technology available to everyone.
Recommender systems have received so much business interest because they can be used to drive revenue and conversion in so many ways. Social networking sites like Facebook and Match.com use recommendation technology to help users find each other; content sites like Digg help users find stories; retail sites like Amazon drive upsell and cross-sell by telling you that “people who liked that also liked this”. Media sites like Netflix help users find relevant choices from among a huge inventory, and Apple’s Genius makes constant music recommendations to many of us Apple enthusiasts. Less well-known is that direct marketers have been using these types of systems for years: Citibank only mails out credit card offers that recipients are very likely to accept. And if you’re a local business, even yellow pages sales representatives know which products and rates you’re most likely to buy.
However, most of us aren’t Match.com, or Apple, or Citibank. We’re small or mid-size retailers with stretched-thin budgets. We’re content sites that don’t have plans to hire a research scientist any time soon. We’re email marketing managers and CRM managers who could make a big difference with just a little help, product managers who need a proof-of-concept ASAP, and independent app developers with big ideas who want to get something working — tonight. We’re merchandisers with limited resources besides a lot of elbow grease and an outdated copy of Excel.
How does Selloscope put recommendation technology within the reach of smaller sites, email marketers, and app developers?
Selloscope makes recommendations plug-and-play. Small business owners and merchandisers have better things to do than implement and tune their own proprietary predictive models.
Selloscope makes it affordable. Selloscope is a monthly subscription-based service. Specific prices will be announced at launch. But rest assured that if you’re an independent app developer or a hard-working merchandiser and want to give Selloscope a try, we’ll cost you less than a few visits to Starbucks. If you use a lot of recommendations, you’ll pay a little more. And everyone will be able to take advantage of our 30-day free trial.
Will Selloscope work with my site? In a word: Yes. Selloscope is built to work with your site because it accepts any string as an item it can work from. Internal ProductIDs? Great. Text descriptions? No problem. Full URLs? Heck yeah. Links to different products and content all over the Internet? Now you’re talking!
Selloscope is a fundamental building block for your business and for the Internet. You can use Selloscope for merchandising, upsell, and cross-sell. You can use it to improve conversion and ROI on-site and through email marketing. But you can also use it to build a movie recommendation app that outperforms Netflix. You can build a YouTube video channel that people can’t stop watching. You can build an iPhone app recommender that really works. You can even build an app that tells people what to buy their girlfriend on her birthday. Who’s going to be first? Will it be you?
Selloscope.com comes online and begins accepting pre-registrations the first week of August 2010. Full site functionality will be available in early September 2010.