Sparkbuy Aspires to Be the Kayak for Consumer Electronics

Sparkbuy is officially launching today, unveiling a Web site that will let consumers sift through thousands of laptops and tablets to more easily find the device that best suits their needs.

The Seattle-based company–which operates out of the city’s industrial and gritty Georgetown neighborhood, better known for artists and breweries–was founded by Dan Shapiro, who merged his last company, Ontela, with Photobucket.

Similar to the Kayak travel site, the Web site uses sliders to determine such features as price, speed and weight sensitivity. Other features that can be checked are “big screen,” “great for gaming”, “great for Photoshop,” and “3D.”

“This exists for travel, like Kayak and Hipmunk,” said Shapiro, who came up for the idea when he left Photobucket and was looking for a personal laptop that was cheap, lightweight and featured long battery life.

Because he was so baffled by the options, he actually hired a contractor in Pakistan for $50 to research his options and enter the information into a spreadsheet.

That’s the model the company now uses to get its data. Instead of searching the Internet or crawling retailers’ Web sites, Sparkbuy has hired a team of researchers to manually enter the information into a database.

Currently, it has 20,000 reports on roughly 2,000 laptops. There’s so many reports because each report is entered at least three times to ensure accuracy.

The company will make money on referral fees for sending consumers to a retailer’s Web site, similarly to how Kayak makes money when someone discovers a cheap hotel room.

The site launches today with links to Amazon.com and Newegg. Next month, it expects to add HP, MacMall, OnSale, PC Mall, and Toshiba Direct.

Sparkbuy, which has raised $1 million in capital and has four full-time employees, is also collecting data on the myriad of tablets launching over the next few months. Today, it has data on 70, ranging from the $99 Pyrus 7″ Android tablet to the Windows 7 Asus tablet with keyboard for $449 and to the fully loaded iPad 2 for $927.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus