Travel startup Triptrotting is relaunching today on mobile as Wist, an app that gives you the top five personalized suggestions for dining and drink in any given neighborhood or city, based on your likes, plus friends' and locals' recommendations. The app is debuting with support for Miami only, but will arrive in other large U.S. cities, like New York and Triptrotting's home base of San Francisco, early next year.
Later, it will roll out to other major urban cities around the U.S. and the world, as well as expand its recommendations into new categories beyond just dining and drink options.
The company, originally founded by Shana Zheng and Aigerim Shorman, closed on its $1 million Series A last March from Google Ventures, GRP Partners, Launchpad LA, 500 Startups, Idealab, and others. Triptrotting had users in 175 countries, but it never grew very large, necessitating a shift in direction.
Today, the company has scaled down to a team of four, and Zheng has since moved on.
Triptrotting, before, was focused on combatting “clueless tourism” by connecting travelers and hosts online for local insight and suggestions, or even area tours. But in the many months since its raise, the team found that users were more interested in just asking locals for their opinions rather than anything else.
More importantly, they were clamoring for a service that worked on mobile.
“The paradigm shifted drastically in the last year – all of our users were expecting something very on the go,” says Shorman. “We had to address it. The world has moved on to ‘here and now' versus ‘I'm going to do this in four weeks.' That was a huge discovery for us,” she says.
So Triptrotting scrapped its online website, and relaunched as a mobile recommendations app called Wist instead.
The new app provides the top five recommendations of where to go eat or drink based on a number of factors, in order to give users a local's insight, no matter where they are. There are only five suggestions because ten are too many and under five are too few, the company found during beta testing.
For starters, Wist takes into account your current context, like your physical location, date and time of day. And in the future, it will take into account other signals as well, like traffic or weather. It then combines these with its understanding of your own personal interests and tastes (e.g., vegetarian) and who you're with (e.g., business colleagues, friends) as well as with what Shorman calls “social proof.”
“What we're doing is we're looking to see if there are any places nearby that your friends have been to, and we're combining that with what the locals like,” says Shorman, adding that location data is pulled from Facebook.
Triptrotting, now Wist, already has over 450,000 places in its database, with a few thousand live for its launch in Miami. The app itself is simple to use, with only a few screens to access. It pops up its suggestions, and you can tap on them to see more detail, including photos, business information, reviews and more.
Given its focus on recommendations, combined with the social element, it will compete with other more broadly focused rating and review apps, like Yelp or Google+ (Google Places), as well as with social apps or restaurant finders, like Foursquare, Ness, Urbanspoon and others.
There is something to the simplicity of only having a few options to choose from, instead of having to dig through a list of nearby places which is many pages deep. That being said, gaining visibility on mobile is harder than ever these days in an App Store with a million options to choose from, especially when a good many of them are larger competitors.
But for travelers, Wist may end up being a handy tool.
“Ideally, we want to get to a point where you feel like this is your neighborhood, anywhere you go,” says Shorman.