Pearlshare Launches for iPhone to Disrupt Beleaguered Online Review Industry

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This week sees the friends and family launch of Pearlshare, a new mobile app which allows users to share personal travel and purchase recommendations with friends. Its founders say the multi-billion-dollar online review industry is ripe for disruption.

Fake reviews are a huge and growing problem

Pearlshare is a mobile app designed to help users to share personal travel and purchase recommendations with friends. Pearlshare has been in development mode for the past 18 months and is now being launched to friends, family and early users. Funded by a group of experienced media investors, the company’s aim is to disrupt the increasingly beleaguered online review business. It can be downloaded from the iPhone App Store at

Pearlshare’s mission is simple: to help users get more out of life by sharing great experiences with their friends. The name says it all: “Pearl” refers to the pearls of wisdom about experiences and objects that have given us pleasure; “Share” refers to the human urge to provide the benefit of our experience to friends, and in turn learn from theirs. In the future, when we find something great, we won’t just share it, we’ll Pearlshare it!

The thesis behind Pearlshare is that everyone would prefer to base their travel booking and purchase decisions on recommendations from people they know, rather than on ratings given by strangers on review sites.

1. Trust in online reviews is at an all-time low:

  • As many as 99% of visitors to review sites don’t post reviews, they just read them. How representative of are those who do leave reviews? How similar are they to you?
  • It is widely known that between 10 and 20 per cent of online reviews are fake. A Harvard Business School Working Paper estimates that 16% of Yelp review are false or doctored, based on data from Yelp.
  • Like doping in sport, it has proven impossible to eradicate fake reviews. It remains easy to buy fake reviews for all major review sites
  • The only reason review sites are popular is that they are convenient.

2. Meanwhile, we all enjoy giving and receiving tips and recommendations:

  • When questioned, almost 100% of respondents to Pearlshare market research said they recommended restaurants and hotels to their friends either frequently or very frequently.
  • They strongly influence our behaviour – over 50% of purchase decisions are influenced by word-of-mouth and 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising.
  • Swapping recommendations is fun – as any conversation among friends will demonstrate: it is something we enjoy doing, something that is part of the human experience.

The Pearlshare app is designed around simple, intuitive processes to help users share and discuss recommendations with friends, and to create collections of the best ones. Initially available on iPhone, the development plan includes versions for Android, web and other platforms, so that your Pearls will always be available, wherever you are.

Within days of exiting from stealth mode, Pearlshare was voted onto the front page of Product Hunt (3 August 2015). Traffic and user figures are confidential but ramping up very rapidly. The team’s main focus for the immediate future is ensuring that early users find the Pearlshare service compelling.

Pearlshare is a personal mission for the founders, Michael Liebreich, James O’Day and Oliver Brooks. They were brought together by mutual friends who knew that all of them were dissatisfied with current solutions to the problem of personal recommendations and dodgy reviews.

Michael Liebreich, Pearlshare co-founder and Chairman, is a serial media and information entrepreneur, as well as one of the world’s leading authorities on clean energy. He sold his last business, New Energy Finance, to Bloomberg LP in 2009, and still spends much of his time as Chairman of the Advisory Board. He also serves as and advisor to the Secretary General of the UN on Sustainable Energy for All, and is a member of the board of Transport for London and Visiting Professor at Imperial College London. Michael is a former Olympic skier, and his first business,, quickly became one of the world’s leading winter sports websites.

Michael Liebreich said: “We all use online reviews all the time – deciding where to go on holiday, choosing a restaurant, figuring out what to wear, finding a chiropractor. It is convenient, but it’s increasingly obvious our trust is misplaced. Online reviewers don’t know us and usually aren’t like us. More importantly, fake reviews are a huge and growing problem. It is like doping in sport: everyone knows it’s happening, but the people who should be fighting it don’t even want to talk about it.”

James O’Day, Pearlshare co-founder, President and COO, was a leader in The Boston Consulting Group’s Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) practice in London and has worked in Silicon Valley. He said: “I travel more than almost anyone I know, and I am constantly bombarded by wonderful recommendations for where to stay, where to eat, what to see. I have tried every possible way of capturing the information, but I’ve found no good solution. So a few years ago I resolved to build it myself, and was delighted to meet co-founders who shared my vision.”

Oliver Brooks, Pearlshare’s CTO, is another serial entrepreneur, having previously founded Indo Lighting and He said: “To win we need to take a lot of technologies and knit them together in a way that is simple and intuitive. It’s a challenge, but we know we are breaking new ground.”

Founded at the beginning of 2014, Pearlshare has raised seed funding from some of Europe’s leading angel investors, among them previous early stage backers of companies such as LinkedIn, LoveFilm, Wonga, Betfair, PeerIndex, yplan, eFinancial News and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In addition to the three founders, Peter Gutman, former Managing Director in the European Communications, Media and Technology Group for Goldman Sachs, MD of iFormation and CFO of Video Networks, an UK based IPTV platform, serves on the board.

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