Bizzy Gets Busy With a New Local-Business Recommendation Engine

By  |  Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 12:10 am

A little over two months ago, I wrote about a new local-business site called Bizzy which aimed to help consumers stay in touch with their favorite neighborhood establishments. It was an interesting idea, but one which would only work if said local businesses knew about it and committed themselves to participating. At the time, I wondered what the chances were that they’d sign up in large enough numbers to make it all work.

Well, the Bizzy folks found that getting restaurants and other small businesses to participate wasn’t a cakewalk–and rather than redouble their efforts to make the concept work, they’ve gone back to the drawing board. They’re previewing a new version of the service that’s still about eateries and other local outfits. But instead of focusing on helping you learn more about the ones you already know, they want to help you find new ones you might like.

The reworkeed version of Bizzy aims to do this by asking you to tell it the names of restaurants, clubs, clothing stores, and other locales you already know and like–twenty of them for starters–and then comparing your answers to those of other Bizzy members. When you mention businesses also mentioned by others, Bizzy concludes that you might like those folks other favorites, too.

Like any site meant to help people choose where to eat, buy clothes, or otherwise do business locally, Bizzy is going to compete with Yelp. But the company’s founders told me that their goal is to give custom help for different kind of people–college kids, married people with kids, both people who love Thai food and people who hate Thai food–and to do it without requiring anyone to wade through Yelp-style reviews.

Rather than throwing the doors open for business but feeling thin on information–which was a problem with the original Bizzy and many other startup sites–the new version is only partially up and running. It’s collecting the names of members’ favorite businesses, and letting them browse favorites from other members. But it’s not going to attempt to start issuing recommendations until it has more available data to work with, whereupon it’ll contact everyone and ask them to come back. Sounds surprisingly realistic to me.

It’s impossible to give all-new Bizzy any verdict at all until it’s not only asking questions but giving advice. But for what it’s worth, the company let me answer the twenty questions and then provided me with a rough list of recommendations–and it included several businesses I like but hadn’t mentioned, and a few more that sounded intriguing, at least.

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