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Summary:

Hunch, a New York-based startup whose founders include by Chris Dixon and Caterina Fake, has flown under the radar since it launched six months ago, which is strange considering its potential as a disruptor. Today, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales joined Hunch’s board.

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has joined the board of directors of Hunch, a New York-based startup that counts among its co-founders Chris Dixon and Caterina Fake. Hunch is one of the more important startups to emerge recently, yet it’s largely flown under the radar — much like Flickr did in the early days — despite its all-star founding team.

But back to Wales and his new director position. He outlines why he decided to join Hunch’s board in a blog post today:

I’ve always been intrigued by the potential intersection of community-based, user-generated web platforms and algorithmic, machine-based ones. Wikipedia and Wikia have proven to do a pretty darn good job with the former. Search engines clearly do a great job with the latter. But until recently I hadn’t seen a great example of how the two approaches could come together, co-exist and truly complement each other to form something greater than the sum of the parts – which I believe is the future of the web. Hunch.com’s combination of community-sourced content and algorithmically-driven smarts is forging a promising path towards this potential future.

Wales’ reasons are pretty similar to why Hunch is one of my favorite startups. At its very core, Hunch is a decision engine, but one that’s more sophisticated when compared to services such as Aardvark that offer answers to specific problems in a binary way. (Aardvark, by the way, is rumored to have received a $30 million acquisition offer from Google, which, if true, I think it should take, because as a service it will struggle to scale beyond a certain number of users.)

Hunch in a post on its own blog outlines its progress since its launch back in June:

  • Hunch users have created more than 5,500 decisions.
  • Hunch users have added more than 30,000 follow-up questions to those decisions.
  • Hunch users have contributed more than 50,000 decision outcomes.
  • Users have answered more than 28 million THAY (‘Teach Hunch About You’) questions.
  • Users have ‘played’ more than 6 million decisions on Hunch.
  • Hunch had more than 1 million unique visitors to the site in November.

Hunch (and companies like it) represent a smart way to deal with the increasing deluge of information on the web. Simply put, Hunch marries such information with your personal tastes to help you make choices. Using a decision tree structure, the site leads you through a series of questions, the answers to which help you uncover what decision you should ultimately make — whether it’s the next car you should drive or BBQ you should buy.

Caterina Fake

With the rise of the social web, “there’s an incredibly lush landscape of data that’s yet to be sorted,” Hunch Chief Product Officer Caterina Fake told me when I visited the company a few months ago. Caterina explained how in 2004, when Flickr was launched, many different trends converged to make the service a success: digital cameras had become commonplace, camera phones were on their way to entering the mainstream, broadband was becoming prevalent and blogging was hitting a new high.

She thinks a lot of different trends are coming together for Hunch as well, such as how people have gotten comfortable with the idea of sharing their personal information online, thanks to Facebook. (Remember the “25 Things About Me” craze on Facebook?). There is more trust in the collective knowledge shared on the web, thanks to Wikipedia. And most importantly, people are comfortable seeking answers from sites such as Mahalo and Yahoo Answers.

I see two big trends that favor Hunch: the pervasiveness of broadband and the explosion in the number of information-creation edge points, both of which are causing large amounts of information to flow into the web, challenging the search-based paradigm popularized by Google. For while Google can be the start of our quest for information, we need to augment it with services that bring the information to us.

In her recent post, All I Want for Christmas Is My Web, Stacey wished for a web that “comes to me on my phone, my navigation device, television or that fancy photo frame. It’s my web, delivering the information that it thinks I want, based on my preferences, friends and eventually location.” Well, Hunch is going to help her do that using a set of interesting algorithms including a “question selection algorithm.”

Indeed, as Fake explained, “We’re replacing calling friends and asking for her advice…we’re replacing human interaction, putting it online and making it easy to use instead of you going on to a search engine.” Hunch’s decision-based process makes it an efficient and targeted advertising platform. At the very least, the service can serve up ads for products that match the decisions people make.

For example, if someone uses Hunch to decide that a hybrid SUV should be their next car, the system could offer ads for car companies that sell hybrid SUVs. That’s what makes Hunch a lethal combination — one Jimmy Wales is glad he got behind.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Martinez.

Wales images courtesy of Wikipedia, Fake image courtesy of Duncan Davidson via Flickr.

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  1. LindaStone at 12/08/09 02:52:16 | Exectweets Monday, December 7, 2009

    [...] Pro Tweets @gigaOm loves Hunch http://gigaom.com/2009/12/07/hunch/ Congratulations, @caterina on yr new board member, Jimmy Wales! LindaStone – Tue 08 Dec 2:52 [...]

  2. I’m hearing about Hunch just now and decided to check it out..Wow, it was love at first sight! Jimmy Wales inclusion is only going to make it all the more better!

  3. Quickthink » Blog Archive » Cool Startup Award – Hunch Monday, December 7, 2009

    [...] Giga gives a nice introduction to a startup called “Hunch“. Here is the link. The basic idea of Hunch is to enhance your decision making powers by using web resources. Call it enhanced search, or perhaps an organizer on steroids. But I give Hunch credit for focusing on empowerment (rather than building yet another social network platform). [...]

  4. Good Morning How Do I Stop Smoking Without Any Medication? | Stop Smoking Laser Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    [...] My Hunch Is As Good As Jimmy Wales' Hunch – GigaOM [...]

  5. @OM Malik… Great article! Hunch.com is the future.
    The SUV example in your last paragraph show us why.
    Unlike Twitter or FB, the business model is obvious.
    I’ve already registered to the site. It looks good.

  6. Where to start…I signed up for Hunch when it first released and what I liked most was the clean interface. It was just plain simple. After answering a plethora of questions I tested out a few questions. That was nice but I haven’t been back since.

    Since I haven’t been by in a while I decided to go check it out again and try it out. I think I’m going to find myself not returning again and here is why.

    I’m human. I’m not a robot. I like making decisions based upon my own research. I like reading reviews and coming to my own conclusions of what to do or buy. I don’t like answering a bunch of questions especially ones that appear to not be relevant (i.e. what does capital punishment have to do with buying a digital camera?).

    Hunch is not in my future. It feels like the business product was built around what advertisers would want or use rather than what a user would like to use.

  7. Really? Not sure I’m following the logic here. Still don’t understand why its so great. I checked it out months ago and it feels stale and offers little value save for a bit of fleeting entertainment.

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