First Interview: Chris Dixon Talks eBay’s Purchase of Hunch

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When it comes to big data and personal recommendations, Hunch and eBay are a match made in heaven. Both work with mountains of unstructured data and hope to improve user recommendations through social signals.

At least, that is what Chris Dixon and eBay CTO Mark Carges had to say in a phone call with Betabeat this morning, following news of the acquisition. But the pair laid out a compelling case for why the purchase makes sense.

“eBay is a very unique retailer,” Mr. Dixon said. “When grandma posts a sweater for sale, it doesn’t have a metadata to help sort and identify it. In working to understand user’s taste on the open web, this is the challenge we have been solving at Hunch.”

Something like 70% of items on eBay don’t have traditional metadata like product IDs. “We have been working with our own data on consumer behavior to power recommendations,” said eBay CTO Mark Carges. “Hunch brings in some really complimentary work that they have been doing with social signals.” 

eBay is also unqiue in that it works with both buyers and sellers. “The peer-to-peer nature of their marketplace is very interesting. In the tests we have been running we have found opportunities for sellers to tweak, for example, the kind of camera they are selling in order to meet unfulfilled demand,” Mr. Dixon said.

In recent months there has been a surge of users buying and selling gold on eBay. “Hunch discovered that a certain class of users who were buying gold coins were also the perfect customer for a microscope that they could use to examine these goods,” says Mr. Carges. “That is the kind of odd association we never would have found on our own.”

Mr. Carges says eBay is also excited about establishing a base in Silicon Alley. “When it comes to building out our expertise in design and fashion, we are definitely bullish on what we can learn with a presence in New York.”

eBay’s 97 million users and 200 million active listing add up to 9 petabytes of data across 2 billion daily page views. “There is only so much you can teach your system with the big academic data sets that are publicly available,” Mr. Dixon said. “With eBay’s data behind us, expect Hunch to get much, much better.”

First Interview: Chris Dixon Talks eBay’s Purchase of Hunch