Dojo, an app that curates “cool” places to eat, drink and visit in London, has raised an £800,000 seed round to help it scale up. This will include the imminent roll out of version 2 of the app, powered by a completely new backend that will enable Dojo to plug into a new city “in a matter of weeks,” says co-founder Robin Shimmin, setting up the company to expand to several new cities internationally over the next year.
The startup’s new backers are noteworthy, too. Leading the round is London VC Playfair Capital, with participation from Saatchinvest, the investment arm of ad giant M&C Saatchi (who are also backers of Citymapper) and a number of angel investors including Harry Briggs (who is also a VC at Balderton) and Ross Bailey (founder of Appear Here).
Part of the investment also comes from the London Co-Investment Fund (LCIF), the new fund set up by London Mayor Boris Johnson to encourage and support burgeoning tech startups in the capital city.
Founded by ex-Lotus F1, Deutsche Bank and Ernst & Young employees, Dojo offers a highly curated and visual guide to how to spend days and nights out in London, specifically targeting 18-35 year olds who want to move slightly away from the beaten track. To do this the iOS app offers daily suggestions that range from pop ups, places to eat, exhibitions, night clubs and cosy so-called ‘speakeasy’ venues, bars and members clubs.
As I wrote previously, its modus operandi — and how it hopes to stand out from a crowded market for venue and event discovery — is a ‘less is more’ approach, using a mixture of its own algorithms to surface events from blogs, other publications, Twitter and Facebook, coupled with an editorial team made up of “young Londoners” who handpick and curate each day’s finds.
To that end, Dojo’s new backend, which the startup has been heavily investing in, is what CEO Shimmin thinks will give it the edge. “[We’ve] worked tirelessly to create a backend data mining, entity extraction, and classifying system that enables us to rapidly build up compelling content from any city we wish to target,” he says.
Dubbed internally as “Sherlock”, the system uses a scoring mechanism to surface and flag up relevant content for the startup’s target demographic of “young urbanites”, before it’s passed by Dojo’s human curators. It takes into account things like user ratings, traffic, how recently somewhere has opened, location and various other data points for venues and events.
“Sherlock takes out all of the investigative legwork for our editorial team, saving an incredible amount of time and effort,” says Shimmin. “This algorithmic approach, complemented with human curation, means that we’re always one step ahead.”