Grayboxx Founder Bob Chandra responded, via phone, to criticisms of the site’s launch in Burlington, VT, which resulted in a lot of off-the-mark rankings. Chandra acknowledged that Burlington (population 38,000, with a metro area of about 130,000) may be “too small” to fully leverage his company’s sources of data, which treats all mentions as an indication of popularity. Cities with populations between “100,000 to 1 million are our sweet spot,” he says.
This week the site is launching in Boise (population 208,000) and Cleveland (population 2.95 million) and should see better results, he says. The formal national launch will be Dec. 3. He hopes to have another round of financing in place by then.
Chandra notes he is constrained from citing his source(s) of data; something that has hurt the site’s credibility. There is no way to check his assertion that he’s got access to mentions on more than half of U.S. small businesses (even if you accept the fairly radical — but interesting — concept that mentions are about as good as actual reviews).
As former AOL Local exec Laurence Hooper notes in comments to The Local Onliner: “I’d very much like to hear some real information about the sources Grayboxx is plumbing, by the way, and I suspect their users would also. I think the company would get much more useful feedback if people understood what’s behind the curtain.”
Whether the sources are ever revealed, and Grayboxx catches on or not, what I take away is just how difficult it is going to be to get a quorum of legit reviews and ratings for small businesses. When you get beyond the passion categories (restaurants, bars), realistic consumers are going to have to figure out how low is “good enough.”
Thanks to Michael Wood-Lewis for additional info.