Sōsh, the personal concierge and offline activity recommendation app that debuted back in July of last year, is announcing a $4 million Series A round of funding today, led by Battery Ventures. The money will help Sōsh expand to new cities, taking flight from its home territory of San Francisco with a carefully staged rollout that will likely begin with New York City.
What Sōsh provides are recommendations not only about venues like the kind you’d be able to find from crowdsourced efforts like Yelp, but about specific activities, events, and services that you’d be likely to actually attend or use. It combines data-analysis efforts and algorithmic recommendations with human-curated selection to pare down the wealth of things to do in any given city to effectively a top 15 percent that should actually be relevant and high quality.
Sōsh founder and CEO Rishi Mandal explained in an interview that what makes his company special in a world of similar types of products is the special attention paid to typical flags of low-quality events, like over-emphatic language and other subtle cues. It’s an approach that Mandal thinks makes Sōsh better than others tackling personalized recommendations, like TechCrunch Battlefield candidate Livestar or Ness Computing.
“This is almost a stupidly hard problem to try to solve, and yet it’s also a very crowded space,” Mandal explained about what’s missing in the space, and what uses are really looking for in terms of finding worthwhile offline activities. “But primarily, all of the other solutions out there basically focus on venues, so offering you 12 great restaurants to choose from [...] but I think unfortunately, those kinds of things ultimately fail at helping you make a decision.”
Sōsh’s careful approach is also why the startup hasn’t looked beyond San Francisco so far. Mandal says that an important aspect of getting this right is knowing a city inside and out, as well as speaking to its residents personally in a manner they understand. By way of illustration, he points to looking for restaurants in L.A. vs. doing the same in San Francisco: In L.A., people are actually willing to venture pretty far out to find something good, taking hour-long trips to neighboring cities, whereas in San Francisco that same idea seems pretty ludicrous.
Scaling the tech behind Sōsh isn’t the issue when it comes to growth, Mandal says. Instead, it’s learning how to approach each new market in a way that appeals to its residents, and that’s what this newly raised $4 million will really help with.
The Sōsh app has also been updated with improvements to speed and functionality, and Mandal shared that engagement is doing very well. Users are spending an average of 25 minutes per month in the service, with 2 million recommendations to date and a 30 percent email open rate over Sōsh’s existence. Users new to Sōsh typically enter already connected to an average of nine friends, which indicates that the company is doing very well in terms of saturation in its inaugural target market.
Right now, Sōsh is focusing squarely on growth, and is looking to hire engineers, product people, and designers to help with those efforts. Given the right talent, and the ability to find the right ways to target new markets, Sōsh could become one of the few newer players in this space to actually make a lasting impression on consumers and users.
Sōsh is a members-only site that helps people discover things to do in their local area with the addition of an integrated social network. Sōsh is being built by Offline Labs, a stealthy startup founded by former Google and Slide employees.