Recommendation app Sosh partners with OpenTable, continues US expansion

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on April 15, 2014

From The News Desk

Local recommendations app Sosh is expanding into two new cities -- Washington and Chicago -- and is also announcing a partnership with OpenTable.

Unlike Yelp, Sosh instead provides a finely tuned curated list of what's happening in the cities it covers: San Francisco, New York, Seattle, plus today's new arrivals. The app says it doesn't aim for quantity (there are 20 highly rated restaurants near you), but instead quality (you should go to this one hidden place we know about). It curates this information via expert reports (what it dubs 'tastemakers') as well as other sources like local magazines and blogs.

As Sosh's CEO Rishi Mandal explained to me "the goal has never been to build an exhaustive list of things that people could do."

With today's OpenTable announcement, we are seeing more of Mandal's overall vision for the app: Users are able to use Sosh to book reservations for the venues listed. Mandal says he sees the partnership as complimentary of the two services. People go to OpenTable if they have a specific place in mind. But, as he sees it, it never answers the question "what should we do when we don't really know what we're going to do?" Sosh, on the other hand, does.

Additionally, Sosh is also unveiling what it is calling a "marketplace," allowing small businesses to market niche events to the users using data gathered via the app . The events' tickets are then sold through Sosh, from which the app takes in a 5 percent fee for the gross ticket sales.

Mandal says that this service isn't about providing a marketing platform, but about "matchmaking." Given that Sosh has so much data about what people are doing in these cities, it's able to somewhat accurately gauge if an event will work at a particular venue, in a particular town. "With our service we've built up this huge store of people," he said. "We understand their interests."

With that, business owners don't need to sweat the advertising. "They can focus on the food and not on whether anyone will show up," said Mandal.

The marketplace was beta tested in San Francisco with about 50 vendors with general success, says Mandal. He wouldn't provide numbers about his app's current penetration in New York; two months ago he told me one in twelve Manhattanites had the app.

Now comes the question of how well it will fare in smaller cities. Mandal says Seattle is just beginning to get going, but he has high hopes. With $15 million raised thus far, at least Sosh has some time to get more widely adopted.

[Image courtesy Boston Public Library]