We were impressed with a company called IO at Disrupt Europe 2014 in London — the service made it feel like you were having a human conversation with a foodie friend who gives great restaurant recommendations, and not the AI-driven machine running behind the scenes.
The company didn’t end up winning the Battlefield, but that didn’t stop them from making big changes since the show. The core business is largely the same, but IO changed its name to Luka, moved the whole team from Moscow to the company’s new headquarters in San Francisco, and joined Y Combinator’s Winter 2015 Class.
Luka CEO and co-founder Eugenia Kuyda tells TechCrunch that she and her team “totally loved the experience” of being at Disrupt Europe 2014, adding that she thinks the experience was pivotal for her budding startup. Prepping for the Startup Battlefield helped Kuyda fine-tune her pitching skills, something she went on to use both at Y Combinator’s Demo Day and several other pitches she and her team have had to do for fundraising purposes.
Speaking of fundraising — the company raised $120K as part of Y Combinator, and has seen a bit of action since Demo Day. “It’s not public yet, but we’re in a very good position,” said Kuyda. Disrupt introduced the company to several other European investors who showed a great amount of interest in Luka, though they decided to postpone funding from these investors once they got into Y Combinator.
Back in February, Luka launched its service officially in San Francisco as an iOS app that gives users meal recommendations from over 2,000 restaurants in the Bay Area. Kuyda didn’t provide an exact number of users to TechCrunch, but did say that there are “tens of thousands of active users” of its app in San Francisco.
Kuyda claims Luka is already better than Siri in terms of the quality of the conversation, and they’re currently testing some other verticals with the hope that, in the near future, Luka will be the “perfect place to chat with your friends and find places to eat and things to do in SF and the Bay Area.”
We’re excited for Luka, and can’t wait to see all the great companies that will be partaking in the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt London 2015, which runs December 7-8 at the Copper Box Arena. Will you be there? We still have tickets available on our ticketing page for £1,200 a piece.
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