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Startup Spotlight: Shop Smart With TheFind

Choose from 400 million products from 500,000 stores across the Web.

Did you know that the most searched item this Halloween was a costume for a pregnant woman?

Internal search data statistics from TheFind.com, one of the largest shopping search engines, seemed to indicate so.

TheFind, headquartered on Villa Street in Mountain View, essentially started off as crawling the Web for products and over the last year has added the ability of taking direct product feeds from merchants.

This new feature provides the site visitors with a near real-time experience in terms of fresh and new information on available product inventory. For instance, if the price of an item changes, the merchant can send a feed, and the new price will be reflected on TheFind within an hour, at no charge to the merchant. 

"Our mission is to make shopping easier and more accessible," said Usher Lieberman, TheFind's director of corporate communication. "We want to make every product and every store more findable."

With a million unique visitors every day and more than 25 million every month, TheFind began to notice how in-store scanning of products peak over the weekend and after work hours. It also saw big spikes in website traffic on Monday mornings at 9 a.m.

It is the stay-at-home-moms and people who want to validate their weekend purchases who primarily account for this increase, according to Lieberman.

With five patents in the areas of crawling technology and search and discovery, TheFind categorizes and classifies products, pulls them into an index and makes them searchable—all rather well, Lieberman told Patch.

"When I go to the site, it brings up the item I'm looking for and shows me the prices across many retailers," said Gene Alvarez, research vice president of customer relationship management and e-commerce at Gartner Inc., about TheFind. "It is a shopper-aggregation model, and we will see more of these sites emerging as consumers continue to shop for value as a result of the down economy."

Aside from its Mountain View headquarters, TheFind has an office in San Francisco and East and West Coast data centers. TheFind has raised $25 million in venture capital from Bain, Redpoint Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

"The nexus for TheFind came from watching how my wife shopped online," said Siva Kumar, chief executive officer and co-founder.

Rather than browsing through multiple e-commerce sites and search engines, Kumar said, "There had to be a better way, a single aggregated site, a 'one stop way to shop' in every store for every product all at once."

Kumar founded TheFind, his seventh start-up, in 2005. After spending 2 1/2 years building the technology with co-founder Shashikant Khandelwal, they launched the first version of their site to the public in 2007.

"Moving forward, we are leveraging our advantage and patents in search technology to build a unified shopping experience that is personal, mobile, local and social, in addition to the existing onsite experience," said Kumar.

Today the team of 60 employees pushes hard on the social and mobile fronts. They are working to integrate the online and offline shopping experience.

"We have the functionality," said Lieberman. "We now want to make it a consumer brand."

To that end, they are using the Facebook Connect feature, and they expect that the free apps for iPhone and Android will launch soon.

Alvarez said that because comparison shopping is an easy model to replicate, differentiating oneself from others will hold the key. Express sites also pose a considerable challenge.

According to Lieberman, TheFind differentiates itself from NexTag, Become and ShopWiki on the sheer magnitude of numbers.

"Most of the shopping sites have 15-20 million products from 5,000 merchants, while we have 400 million products from half a million stores," he said.

Another difference is that TheFind model has focused on cost-per-action compared with the cost-per-click model, which translates to as much as 60 percent of the traffic coming to their website as free traffic or merchant listings.

"We made a conscious decision not to make money on every click," said Lieberman. "We want to build a very rich site experience."

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