Leonardo DiCaprio, Barry Sternlicht back Qloo, a cultural recommendation engine

Qloo Inc. closed a $4.5 million Series A round of venture funding to support the growth of its cultural recommendation engine. Investors included: Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio; Starwood Hotels founder Barry Sternlicht; Pierre Lagrange of GLG Partners; and Adriaan Ligtenberg’s AllMobile Fund, along with other individual angel investors.

According to the startup’s co-founder and CEO Alex Elias, New York City-based Qloo combs through proprietary and open source data online to learn about consumers’ preferences, and how their tastes correlate across eight major categories: music, film, television, dining, nightlife, fashion, books and travel.

The cultural correlations can sometimes surprise marketers.

Here’s an example Qloo shared with TechCrunch.

Tomorrow, the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against the Golden State Warriors in game 6 of the NBA Finals in Ohio. Sponsors and advertisers spend a lot to get their products in front of the basketball championship audience. So they don’t want to alienate one team’s fan base while appealing to the other.

So what do Cavs and Warriors fans have in common?

A love of Pizza, Sports Center and Empire on TV, and fashion brands Nike and Adidas.

Otherwise, their tastes differ on everything from their favorite recording artists to their favorite films.

In music today, Cavs fans are into Lil’ Wayne, Usher and Wiz Khalifa, Qloo reports. Warriors fandom is more strongly correlated with a love of Mac Dre, Tyga and Drake. In film, Cavaliers fans love Will Smith and Megan Fox, while Warriors fans prefer Kevin Hart and Jennifer Hudson.

Besides helping marketers find the common ground between disparate groups they want to reach, Qloo offers developers an API that can power “if you like this, try that” features within different apps or websites they’ve built.

Elias said that hotels have used Qloo to provide digital concierge services, e-commerce businesses have used Qloo to get customers to look at new products, and media and entertainment companies have used Qloo to guide choices on location, casting and soundtracks.

Generally, the company makes revenue as a provider of business intelligence to marketers who are trying to determine what their existing customers do and do not like, and how to connect with new prospects.

Qloo also operates a standalone app of its own, which helps users find new content they may enjoy or restaurants to try. But Elias says the app is mostly a way to show off what a cultural recommendation engine can do.

The new Series A funding brings the company’s total capital raised to $7.5 million in total. Qloo’s earlier seed investors included, among others, Cedric Kyle (a.k.a Cedric the Entertainer) and Tommy Thompson founding partner of Cross Creek Pictures.

Qloo investor Adriaan Ligtenberg said he backed the startup because, “They were one of the early companies that realized the value of collecting and analyzing big data for culture and entertainment. AI companies allow big data driven business decisions, the insights gained are valuable, for either opening new or optimizing revenue streams.”

He expects Qloo to use the new funding to increase the size and depth of their database, and win over new corporate clients.

Qloo’s CEO said the company is interested in expanding within hotels and resorts, restaurants, media and entertainment, and even seeks to become a part of connected cars, especially helping automakers deliver personalized recommendations in a navigation or entertainment system.