The perennial problem of ‘finding stuff to do’ has been tackled before – whether it’s an app such as Yelp, or good old-fashioned magazines such as Time Out. So does the market have room for another player? This startup seems to think so.
Brian Industries Ltd. is the company behind Find Stuff To Do, a Web app, Facebook app and iOS app that’s setting out to do exactly what it says on the box. But why? “We believe location-based search is fundamentally broken and we want to personalize it to the individual,” says William Roberts founder and CEO at Brian Industries. Alright then.
Finding stuff to do
First up, the iOS app. It will ask your permission to glean your location from GPS, then it asks your gender and email address. I’m not entirely sure why the email address is a required field here, other similar apps don’t make it a pre-requisite, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
Once you’re in, you can set your preferences at very precise levels, such as what kind of pubs you like, and whether you’re a ‘fine-dining’ kind of person. At a more granular level, it asks specifically if you like French, Italian, Spanish…and so on.
Of course, you can opt to keep things very broad if you’re not a fussy person and want to maximize your options.
With your settings ‘set’, you hit search in the bottom navigation pane and stipulate what activity you’re looking for, where about (presumably your current location, but you can state elsewhere) and for what time.
You’re then given a series of options based on the proximity to your location, and the time at which the events begin, or simply more location information on the venue if it’s not time-sensitive. You ‘click’ your desired option, and you can see more details on the event/venue plotted on to a map.
It is actually a nice app, and it does seem to be populated with a lot of content. In terms of what makes it different to what’s already out there, well, it is very similar to the likes of Yelp, but Find Stuff To Do seems to be very time-centric, in that it suggests places and events that are easy to get to from the chosen start point. For example, it will list an actual movie in addition to the cinema, and what time it starts at.
So if you’re ambling through London’s Theatre District and there are tickets available for a show starting, say, in an hour, it works out how long it will take to get there.
Roberts says that personalization is a key selling point for his apps. “Our core take is that there are a lot of apps out there which will showcase what’s on by location, or maybe recommend what your friends like,” he says. “We want to give you what YOU would like. Think of us like your own private concierge. We do this by asking you a set of questions on the iPhone app to get a base point from which we can then learn from and refine the results over time.”
So the app should learn over time. It look at the music you listen to, to refine what gigs it recommends, whilst it looks at where you have eaten and references this against other datasets to improve recommendations. Weather, too, also plays a part in its recommendation engine. “The way we have built our algorithms is that we can throw multiple filters in and take them out whenever we need to,” says Roberts. “For example if it’s sunny we will up-weight outdoor activities or something like an open-air theatre and vice versa . In the larger cities, we can also take into account transport links – for example we may know that your favourite band is playing and you are an hour away from getting there. Most apps would simply not show you this, and would show something closer to home.”
Find Stuff To Do is targeting the UK and US for the moment, and from our initial dabblings, the iOS app certainly does offer a decent selection of activities and events. And its promoter platform allows anyone in the entertainments space to promote what they are doing in real-time, which holds a lot of potential for organizers to shift unsold inventory.