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Feb 10

5 Minutes With Jerry Ropelato & Stan Bassett

Posted by: Mark Solon        


Two years ago the folks at the Utah Fund of Funds introduced us to Jerry and Stan (CEO & President respectively) from TopTenReviews in Salt Lake City and were completely impressed with the amazing business they had built without raising any capital. They were looking to take the company to the next level and having lived the frustration ourselves of trying to find credible and high-quality comparison reviews of products on the web in a simple and efficient manner, we were equally impressed with how easy their site made comparison shopping. Along with our good pal Bo Peabody of Village Ventures, we co-led a $6M financing in 2008 and together recently invested another $1.5M which allowed TopTenReviews to make a key acquisition which we believe will create tremendous value. At a recent board meeting, I had a chance sit with Jerry & Stan and ask them a few questions.

1 - Does the world really need another review site? What’s so different about TopTenReviews?

What makes us different is our review methodology. Typically, when we create a product or service category, we research and review similar products with the end-goal of recommending the best product through a side-by-side matrix comparison which includes the rankings and ratings. Most review sites/blogs just review individual products and rate them, but typically don’t rank them in comparison to the other products in that category. Our product reviews are written to be understood by non-techie’s.

2 - You two aren’t the typical web startup guys. You’re over 30, have families and live in Ogden, UT. What drove you to start TopTenReviews?

It probably is rare for guys with gray hair (just a touch of gray) to start an Internet company. We really enjoy living in Utah - can’t beat the skiing and outdoor recreation. The original idea for TopTenReviews came from always being asked the question “what is the best internet filtering software?”. After building an initial review site to answer that question, we built upon that concept and now have over 300 categories of different products and services (and frankly we have had a lot of fun in the process).

3 - What makes Ogden a great place for a startup? What are the challenges?

Ogden, is a small town atmosphere - very friendly people where-ever you go. It was through this small town network of friends where we hooked up with the Utah fund of funds and eventually to Highway 12 Ventures and Village Venures. Compared to the coasts, you can’t beat the rent, information highway infrastructure, and the costs associated with the talent base - very attractive for starting a business. The work ethic in Utah is also tremendous. The biggest challenge is sometimes finding the right talent - the pool of skilled workers is relatively small compared to places like Silicon Valley and Boston.

Ogden, just north of Salt Lake City, is beautifully charming

Ogden, just north of Salt Lake City, is beautifully charming

4 - TopTenReviews just made a pretty significant acquisition. Tell us about it.

We acquired the consumer media division of Imaginova which included,, and This has been an extremely positive acquisition for us. It has increased our visitor traffic three-fold and allowed us to expand into broader areas of technology. This has really helped with our syndication goals (you will now find our content on the home pages of Yahoo, FoxNews, MSNBC, MSN, and AOL). Many times acquisitions just don’t ever seem to gain the momentum and success that you originally planned for - in our case, this acquisition has exceeded all expectations. The employees that came along with the deal have been superb. The integration of the two companies couldn’t have gone smoother. We are right on target with getting this acquisition to profitability and are thrilled with the possibilities it has created.

5 - What are the most popular things people are looking for reviews on these days?

We do get bumps in traffic whenever a new technology is released and the buzz is everywhere, but in reality our visitors are just average users of technology (non-techies) looking for a solution to their problem. This might be a new computer, the latest television, or a piece of software. They don’t want to feel dumb, they want to know what to buy, and they want it to be an easy experience. We find our visitors want technology to compliment their lives, not consume it.

6) What type of review is more trusted, an “expert” or a consumer?

Trust has to be earned and that takes time. We believe there is a place for trust in both “experts” and “consumers”, but obviously we support the “expert” environment. Consumers do a great job with the masses identifying whether a product is good or not, but we believe it is the experts that can tell you which product is the best, 2nd best, etc. and the reasons why the product is best. Individual consumers typically only use one product in a given category and can’t really compare it to the other products in that category.

7 - What’s next for TopTenReviews? Where do you go from here?

We are planning to expand our depth and breadth of tech-related news, reviews, and information, expansion of our Tech Media Network and partner sites, and to increase our syndication channels. We just released our newest technology property,, a website where technology meets daily life. The response has been phenomenal.

8 - Finally, how’s the snow in Utah this year? Are you skiers or boarders? Fill us in on your favorite “secret stash” run.

We are both skiers and love the Utah snow. Our personal favorite is at Snowbasin ski resort, location of the 2002 Winter Olympics Men’s downhill - take the John Paul lift to get there.

The John Paul lift will get you to this "secret stash"

The John Paul lift will get you to this "secret stash"


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