Local search site Loku launches in public beta today, with the aim of helping people quickly find out more about the environs around them — using the vast repository of location-based information available.
Instead of making the user pour through crowdsourced information, Loku uses natural language search to serve up the most relevant articles in a given area through its “Know Local” function, allowing people to look for relevant media around the topics of “Good Eats,”"Culture,” etc. It’s “Go Local” function lets people use a slider to sift through a sentiment rank of the places around them.
Classifying itself as “Big Data” for local and holding Google and Yelp as competitors, Loku CEO Dan Street tells me that Loku synthethizes available information instead of just presenting it in a hierarchy.
He likens Loku to “the analytical layer on top of the local Internet.” “We can tell you the aggregated sentiment—the ‘buzz’—about a local restaurant or event,” he explains, “We can pull all the information together and present insights in a lively, single-page, graphical format.”
For its Go Local results, the service uses the Twitter API and machine learning to analyze how people are talking about places on their blogs and social media, and then separates those words into different categories like “Swanky” or “Hipster.” To make the process even simpler, Loku’s results are extremely visual for both the Know Local and Go Local features, serving up results in a visual grid reminiscent of Pinterest.
“There two problems this is solving,” Street says. “There’s no place on the Internet where you can find out what is happening block by block. And it is still way too hard to find a place to go eat or a place to go eat and a place to go out. It’s hard to find very localized information. What you want is just one answer — you want a simplification.”
Loku presently has $1.4 million in funding from angels including 500Startups. Street tells me that he eventually wants to add concerts and events to the service, as well as launch a mobile app asap.