Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Sosh Raises $10.1M for Local Discovery

What does the end of search look like? Perhaps a little bit like Sosh, the local activity concierge.

SoshSosh, which helps people find things to do — like try a particularly neat menu item, take a cocktail-making class, or go for a hike — aims to “make cities more interesting.”

Despite the fact that there’s a prominent search box on both the Sosh website and app, search is used by only four percent of active users. That’s crazy low. Instead, Sosh users browse and receive recommendations.

That’s why Sosh is different from Yelp, contends CEO Rishi Mandal. Yelp is a structured directory. Sosh is personalized inspiration.

And Yelp board member and Khosla Ventures partner Keith Rabois agrees, having led a new $10.1 million Series B funding round for Sosh.

Rabois, who is joining the Sosh board, had previously been an angel investor in the company before joining Khosla this year.

Also joining the funding: Previous investor Battery Ventures, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and former Washington Post CEO Don Graham.

Sosh has yet to scale. The company doesn’t disclose actual user numbers, just gives relative approximations, so you know it’s not that many. Today, Sosh is only available in San Francisco and New York City, and on the Web and the iPhone.

But Mandal said that expanding to New York — Sosh launched there in April — gave investors confidence that Sosh knows what it’s doing. In San Francisco, Sosh says one in six people aged 21 to 40 is a member. The much, much larger New York is on track to be a bigger Sosh market in a few months.

The company makes its recommendations by intaking all sorts of local listings information and targeting users based on their behavior, friends, stated interests, neighborhood and demographics.

Mandal said that expanding to a new city — coming soon are Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles — should take only one human curator to run local content. That’s also different from Yelp, whose early city-by-city launches were expensive and laborious.

What’s next for Sosh is a business model. And, in Mandal’s mind at least, a discovery business could be more valuable than a search business. Mandal said the plan is to create a marketplace where local businesses get data about existing customers’ interests and habits. “Our marketplace most certainly wouldn’t be driven by value or coupons, but instead by genuine interest and fair value,” he said.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald