“What do you want to do this weekend?”
That question must get asked tens of thousands of times, at least, by people all over the city every week, and now there’s a startup ready to give you fresh new answers: Sosh.
Since launching last summer Sosh has been helping San Franciscans discover unique experiences and events that they otherwise would have likely missed.
“We take the world of online information out there and help people make the decision about what to do,” says CEO Rishi Mandal. “We only recommend super high-quality things, the type that broaden their horizons.”
Mandal says Sosh focuses on a “broad-based, holistic” solution as opposed to one niche, such as food, outdoors, or lectures. Rather, Sosh provides suggestions in all of those categories and many more.
“Our technology scans thousands of sources every day, including Facebook and Twitter, and then rejects 70 percent of what we find,” he explains. “What we find is that special cooking class at flour & water, for example, or outings from Weekend Sherpa.”
The technology involves a lot of natural language processing. “Then we have a great group of curators, active users. Humans look at everything before we post it.”
Users sign in with Facebook Connect, which brings their social graph into the mix and allows greater customization.
The first wave of adopters at Sosh tend to be those already doing the social planning in families or groups.
“What we see in social circles is that someone is the organizer/planner. A lot of the time that person is female and busy,” says Mandal. “Once we find that social organizers, inspire them, it can affect ten other people. People in that circle start to join.”
Almost two-thirds of those using the service are female, he says. Since one of the main use cases is people trying to figure out what to do on a date, and men and women often have very different ideas about what makes a good date, Sosh sometimes come to the rescue.
“Men tend to not know what to suggest for a date,” Mandal suggets gently. "We have received more than one email from grateful users with messages like ‘thanks for making me a better husband or boyfriend.’"
The company doesn’t take commissions from the vendors whose events they are driving consumers to, as its long-term business model depends on that data about the deep interests of the people that use its service.
“As we learn people’s interests that will be valuable information for all sorts of merchants, we’ll gain insights for local merchants and connect them with customers. That data is the long-term value here.”
Mandal says the “aha moment” comes when people using Sosh get the impression that “it can read your mind.” Like Pandora, the degree of customization is key to the experience. “No two people see the same Sosh.”
The company received a seed round of funding from Sequoia Capital,
Polaris Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Redpoint Ventures and some angel investors last year. The team of six includes three engineers.
Sosh is available on the web and iPhone, only in San Francisco for now, but may be expanding into other markets later this year.