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While in San Francisco I had the chance to meet with RelevantMind CEO Aaron Mann. Aaron took me on a tour of his product which he will launch live at the DEMO conference this week. RelevantMind (RM) is a tool to help you research products within communities and forums. It helps you to find collaborative product research. The team is currently organizing around verticals with sports, cooking and automobiles first up. Aaron was quick to point out that RM is not a reviews aggregator.
Aaron believes that reviews are getting overrun with company spam (i.e. positive reviews written by someone on the inside) and RelevantMind seeks to change that. Aaron said they are starting with forums first. I asked him what defines a forum and he replied with "threaded conversations". They look for passionate members on a topic and how that topic or product is being debated.
Aaron’s quote around their elevator pitch is, "what we are trying to do is bring the Internet gold that the tech community knows how to find – to the average mainstream user". They employ human "gurus" in each vertical to help pull together the best possible results. This is similar to Hakia works with a combo of human and computer power. Each product creates a set of terms, those terms and the resulting queries begin to form the IP for RelevantMind. Searches become smarter as more people run similar ones and the system learns as it goes.
The concept is strong, I think the challenge the face (like many other products in the search/find space) is to figure out how to get users off Google and to their engine. If a user is already on Google and does a search for the "BigBoy Mountain Bike", will then realize the results might not be what they are looking for, then click an ad for RM on the right and do it again? RM has to get out into the communities (offline) in the verticals they serve and begin to really push why RM is better.
My other suggestion for RM is to look at improving the design. It’s an average design but feels cookie-cutter and just misses the mainstream appeal from my perspective. The fonts are a pinch small on the content, the header seems dark and dreary and the gradients probably shouldn’t repeat. Some small touch-ups will improve the feeling when using the search (which is quite powerful).
Their marketing is mainly in the SEO area and is targeted directly at the verticals not to the RM main site. The team is based in Berkeley, California and is self-funded.
A couple sample screenshots: