Shopping with Pronto

Pronto is yet another shopping comparision site – Just what the world needs right?

Pronto is a new division of IAC/InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ: IACI) and has recently launched in beta. IAC also has great brands such as CitySearch, Evite, Colorado’s own ServiceMagic, and The main office is in New York, but their lead technologist is in Boulder as are some staff members. I first became aware they were operating here because I saw a ton of job ads on Craigslist a few months back. I have an RSS feed with certain keywords in it that helps me find new startups to talk to in Colorado.

I installed Pronto (yes, on a spare machine) and used it a bit while shopping. Pronto’s main feature is a browser plug in which pops up “toast” (like MSN Messenger) when it has shopping comparisons or special offers for you. It usually only does this while you’re already shopping so it’s an easy way to see if the price you’re looking at is high or low.

Once in a while it will pop up (toast me?) with something totally off the wall like this (as a result of one of searches for information about the CEO, which led me to a page about the board of Not only useless, but annoying too! (hey guys, consider this a bug report).

Mostly I shop for books and electronics. As you can see in the image above, the price range Pronto has for the book Hackers and Painters is $15-$17. Amazon offered it to me for $14.92 (what, is it Columbus day or something?).

This is often the problem I describe to people doing shopping comparison sites – Amazon and Ebay are already efficient markets. If I want to make sure I’m getting a good deal on something reasonably popular, I can pretty much go to one of those sites (Amazon for books, ebay for anything else) and feel pretty comfortable that I’m not getting totally ripped off. Now if I’m shopping for something more expensive (like a TV or a Kegerator) then I am already going to shop around. It’s not like this is so hard to do that it’s worth it to be “toasted” on every minor purchase I am contemplating just in case I happen to be shopping for something expensive.

My point is you’re going to shop around anyway on those larger items – this is already easy to do and doesn’t feel so intrusive like this browser plug in does. I’m curious to see how the beta goes, and what Pronto can learn from it. As a short-time user my advice would be to kill the “toast” and instead light up a toolbar icon that I can click if I care to do so.

I tried several times to sync up with Dan Marriott (founder and CEO of Pronto) and it never happened so I don’t have much deep information about this company at this point. We did exchange a few emails and I’m hoping that perhaps he (or someone from Pronto) will comment on this post. If you know something more, please chime in.

file under: Blog, Startups