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“Is this data scientist a consumer’s best friend?”

GigaOM profiles UW CSE professor Oren Etzioni:

“In Oren Etzioni’s world, telling you where to buy a product is so 20 years ago.  He did that with his first startup, Netbot, in 1996.  Today, Etzioni wants to tell you when to buy — that ideal moment when the price won’t fall for a while and you won’t get burned by the release of a new model a week later.  Tomorrow, well, maybe he can let you know when you’re in the vicinity of a great deal.

“Etzioni, who spends his days as a computer science professor at the University of Washington, is probably best known as the co-founder of Farecast.  That company, which Microsoft bought for $115 million in 2008 and incorporated into Bing, helped even the playing field between travelers and airlines by predicting the best times for travelers to purchase their tickets.  Airlines practice yield management by regularly changing their prices to maximize profit, but Etzioni was able to find a fair amount of predictability once Farecast was able to get the data it needed from the airline industry.

“Lately, though, Etzioni has been focused on his latest startup,, which launched in 2010 and applies the premise behind Farecast to consumer electronics and appliances.  At some point, Etzioni told me, the practice of yield management had migrated to ‘pretty much every non-trivial good.’  Consumer electronics was the natural place to start, he said, because they tend to be highly considered purchases and enough of them are made online to generate lots of data and justify the existence of a web application.”

Read the rest of this terrific post here.