Thursday Sep 20, 2012 by Susan Johnston - Contributor, VentureFizz
After working in real estate for several years (he recently sold his web-based real estate company to Better Homes Realty), Tony Longo noticed a surprising lack of information around location. “We’ve seen awesome companies like Zillow and Trulia who have done an unbelievable job of bringing data to the forefront,” he says. “One huge gap that I’ve witnessed is information on location, which is very sparse and it’s not aggregated.”
Longo points to startups like Yelp and TripAdvisor, which have done a great job at bringing transparency to restaurants, hotels, and travel. He hopes BlockAvenue.com, his latest venture which launches today, will bring the same transparency to specific geographic locations.
“Is it a safe area? Is it a fun area?” he asks. “We’re bringing in information about whatever you consider to be fun, whether that’s bars or musicals, and we’ve aggregated about 50 million data points rolled into a Blockscore.” Each block will get a score from A to F based on data points and reviews from people who’ve been there. (Of course, as the Boston Globe points out, this could create some controversy among homeowners and real estate agents.)
Case in point: when Longo moved from New York City back to Boston last year, he knew he wanted to live in the South End, “where it’s quieter and we can walk to work.” Trouble is, not all of the South End lives up to its image as an idyllic spot for weekend brunches and dog-walking. “To me, the South End is broken up into a hundred different mini neighborhoods,” says Longo.
Longo visited the area a few times during the day, but has discovered that “visiting that location and living there is very different.” Having a resource that could offer specific information on that block and four blocks around it, including data on day vs. night or summer vs. winter, would have helped Longo make a more informed decision in his apartment hunt.
Travelers might also benefit from BlockAvenue’s blockscores by reading information on hotel locations. “If you read all these TripAdvisor reviews, there’s a lot of information on the hotel,” says Longo. “But what happens when I walk down the street? What’s around the hotel?”
Longo and his team have been working to answer this question since January and moved into Kendall Square’s Dogpatch Labs in May. The site is open globally but so far they’ve only acquired US-based data and focused on getting reviews from users in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.