A new local business reviews site has raised $5 million in a funding round from Syncom Venture Partners. The startup, AlikeList, is trying to distinguish itself from existing competitors by making its recommendations more personal. AlikeList prompts users to write up lists of local establishments they like, along with some commentary; those recommendations are then shared with friends on the site. Users can also opt to see recommendations from all of the site’s members.
Co-founder Jim Delli Santi tells us that while there might not be too much risk in accepting the “wisdom of the masses” when making some everyday decisions, like deciding what restaurant to eat at, other decisions, such as choosing a dentist, call for more trusted referrals. Even in everyday instances there are benefits to having recommendations that reflect someone’s personal network, he says. Not every college student and CEO will have the same standards for a pizza restaurant.
AlikeList is the latest startup trying to find its niche in a market that until now has been dominated by CitySearch and Yelp. Another recent entrant is Next Stop, which launched in June, and aims user-generated local reviews at travelers.
AlikeList plans to make money in part by charging local businesses to send messages to users who have indicated that they “like” their establishments. Delli Santi says it’s an attractive option since businesses can “spend their dollars on people who are ready to buy, not people who are looking around.” Businesses can also claim their pages on AlikeList and choose which reviews they want to call attention to.
Delli Santi, who spent more than six years at Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), including a stint as the senior director of global geo-targeting at the company, started AlikeList with several other internet veterans more than a year ago, although the site only launched to the public late last summer. So far, Delli Santi says, “thousands” of users have signed up and have indicated that they “like” “tens of thousands of businesses.” He declined to be more specific on either figure.
The funding will be used “for product development, to build the AlikeList user base and to expand the company