Twizoo was founded in the summer of 2013 by Madeline Parra and John Talbott and in 2014 they launched an app that uses a smart algorithm to rank restaurants in the vicinity of a user based on comments on Twitter.
The company has shared offices in London Bridge, and now has a team of seven and a presence in the US.
We fired our spotlight questions at Parra to find out more about her startup and app.
Tell us more about Twizoo
Twizoo uses the wealth of opinions and knowledge spread on Twitter to share suggestions on the best places to eat and drink nearby.
We analyse millions of tweets, filtering out the spam and weighting tweets based on relevance and who's tweeting them. Twizoo's engine uses up-to-the-minute data from Twitter to show the best, and worst, of nearby bars and restaurants, crowdsourced from the people who know them best.
I founded the company with John Talbott, who's now our chief technology officer. We first ran into each other while I was leading digital strategy at GlaxoSmithKline's ViiV Healthcare team.
John was working for an agency that ran social media listening and analysis for GSK. This kind of analysis is the root of Twizoo: trying to find a better way to contextualise and understand social data.
Why did you set up Twizoo?
At GSK, John and I were analysing what people said online to find out what they really thought of GSK healthcare and therapy. In doing this, we had the same realisation that this kind of analysis had huge potential for consumers. After all, you can source customer opinion about almost anything on social media.
Once filtered and aggregated, it becomes a really accurate barometer for what people think. But as I was the one footing the bill I knew how expensive this kind of analysis was, and as John was doing the analysis he knew how manual and difficult it was.
While this kind of information was really valuable to everyone, it was something only really big, wealthy companies could get their hands on. We both wanted to take it and apply it to something that would benefit everyone.
On a trip to Barcelona, John and I were trying to find somewhere to eat. We looked online but couldn't find a place we liked. So we went on social media and asked our friends if they had any advice. Very quickly they came back with few good recommendations and found a great place to eat. Then it dawned on us that our idea was a perfect fit for bars and restaurants.
That was the birthplace of Twizoo, a service which takes social media analysis and uses it to help people find great restaurants and bars. The name itself is a mash up of ‘Twitter' and a word that sounds a little like ‘review'.
It's a direct result of seeing the domain name going on GoDaddy for $6 and, to be honest, a few drinks!
Tell us how you got your business off the ground
We built a prototype in our spare time to see if the technology was feasible. We then launched a beta to see if people would actually use it, and tweaked it from there.
Once the beta showed some traction, we raised an angel round of funding to launch in London. Then a year later we raised a seed round to launch in San Francisco, which allowed us to continue to expand the team and technology.
What technology do you use?
The back end is built in Python, and we have native apps on iOS and Android.
What level of funding have you received so far?
£1.45m in angel and venture capital funding.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
Marketing on a shoestring budget it always hard. Our competitors spend millions and millions every quarter in marketing, so it can be difficult to cut through the noise in a cost-effective yet creative way.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business to date?
It has to be being an early beta partner of Twitter's Fabric software development kits. It was, and continues to be, a huge testament to our technology and the vision we have for the future of social data and the ecosystem being built around it.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
Relax? This is our baby! That's like asking a parent of a new-born how they relax. We're almost always working, but if not you can probably find us in The Mulberry Bush, our local bar.
What did you do before starting Twizoo?
Before teaming up with John, I spent four years at GSK leading global digital strategy for the HIV therapy area. I was responsible for all digital projects related to that therapy area (our product websites, social media, Salesforce system, CRM campaigns etc).
The social listening segment was one of the work streams I led. Before that, I taught maths to underprivileged schoolchildren in the US as part of Tech For America.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
Favourite: You get to choose what you work on and with whom. It's such an empowering way to work.
Worst: All the admin tasks, like HMRC paperwork and so on.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
DataSift. They're the leaders in deriving meaning from social data. Our goal is to take that one step further and deliver back to consumers.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
Shared, which handily has its own beer tap.
Paul Graham. He's co-founder of Y Combinator, the world's first and leading startup accelerator. He was the one who made startups 'cool'! He has a hugely pro-founder view on startups, and is incredibly knowledgeable on the path to success for early stage companies.
Smart or casual?
Casual, although my co-founder has been known to store an emergency suit in the office.
Coffee shop of choice?
Rising Green Café, by Old Street.
Beverage of choice?
Showing my US roots here a little: sweet tea. Translated for the Brits, it's kind of like Lipton's iced tea.
The Mulberry Bush! It's almost an extension of our office.
Twizoo, of course! But if you're asking for anything other than my own, it's Flipboard.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Yes and no. You have to handpick ones that will get you in the same room with the right people. Either those who face similar challenges or can help you solve the ones you're facing.
For example we hosted a meet-up for startups built on Twitter. It was great because everyone could share different perspectives on similar issues, challenges and opportunities.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
I want to see the UK government incentivise startups and ecosystem leaders to stay in the UK. We see too many of the best and brightest who could catalyse so much growth in the UK moving abroad.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from cyber security firm SQR Systems and meeting rooms-as-a-service firm MeetingRooms.com, to IT management firm Essensys and data analytics SaaS firm Saberr.
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