Our investment thesis in Twizoo, the 'intelligence layer' that sits on top of Twitter
Today, if one wants to get up to speed with what’s happening in real-time from the people who are closest to the matter, Twitter has become the default go-to-place. Conferences, sport events, concerts, elections, natural disasters, train delays…Twitter provides “a powerful new lens through which to look at the world”(1) as each one of us is now armed with a smartphone in their pocket acting just like a news breaker or editor (it's telling how live streaming apps like Periscope (now part of Twitter) and Meerkat are literally exploding these days).
Content tends to get curated by Twitter users themselves with user generated ‘hacks’ like hashtags (or lists), which later became proper features. But Twitter is still very noisy and remains largely inaccessible to the larger population, unless they are power Twitter users and have invested significant time to curate their feed. More generally, lots of valuable authentic opinions get shared on Twitter every minute: Twitter users tend to be very vocal in using the medium as a way to publicly broadcast their views (positive or negative), almost as a natural extension of their brain, and engage in real-time conversations. A "triumph of humanity", as co-founder Biz Stone once defined it. One category that Twitter users seem to be particularly vocal about is food and restaurants. Apparently there is up to 7x more customer ‘review’ Tweets about a restaurant for every one Tripadvisor, Yelp, Google Review, or Foursquare tip; it is just very hard to find and distil.
Today we are delighted to announce our co-investment in Twizoo, a mobile app built on top of Twitter’s recently released Fabric ecosystem, that aims at reinventing reviews from the ground up, starting from a mobile-first experience initially centered around restaurants and bars. We are investing alonside Downing Ventures and Paul Forster, the former CEO and co-founder of Indeed.com.
Twizoo’s is an 'intelligence layer' that sits on top of Twitter: its smart filters are able to pull out all the relevant content from Twitter, whilst its algorithms match it up to the venue it relates to, extract a sentiment from it and ultimately translate it into a visually intuitive mobile-friendly recommendation GUI (green, yellow and red bubble whose size conveys how trending that venue is at that moment in time). Twizoo was actually selected by Twitter itself has one of Fabric’s beta partners.
Local search and reviews is an enormous space, that has been the ground of several multi billion dollar businesses over the years, from the days of the yellow pages, to Tripadvisor, Groupon, Opentable, Yelp and Foursquare more recently. The large majority of people's disposable income is still spent within a short radius from their homes.
Here is what got us excited us about Madeline and John’s grand vision.
1) The scalability of the model.
While traditional review sites need to actually build content from scratch (either in house or via user generated content), Twizoo can leverage tons of existing and fresh content straight from where people are already sharing it (i.e. Twitter), allowing it to launch in a new city in a matter of days rather than months, picking up new opening restaurants virtually instantly.
The Twizoo team has developed a very elegant mobile first user interface powered by clever algorithms and filters that surface and enhance Twitter’s real-time content, making it more discoverable, accessible and more valuable to both Twitter and, crucially, non Twitter users. We have all been through the painful process of sifting through hundreds of reviews on Yelp or Tripadvisor, only to be left wondering whether they are genuine or fake, without having a way to actually find out. The elegance of Twizoo is that algorithms assign different weights to tweets depending on the credibility of the Twitter user, meaning that the system cannot be gamed: this is truly game changing for local businesses, solving with scalable technology a problem that other review sites often end up having to fix manually, or more often completely ignoring. Restaurants and bars are the first category, but there is no reason why Twizoo should be limited to it.
2) Rethinking what review UI should look like in a mobile world.
Web incumbents have simply transferred their content and web structure to the mobile interface, resulting in infinite lists of results delivered on a small screen. Twizoo have started by asking themselves, what if a local reviews app was built exclusively for the mobile user?
The outcome of it is a very intuitive and engaging ‘bubbly’ GUI where colours and bubble size convey meaningful information in a lightweight and straightforward way. Search results are limited to 20. This is what one actually needs when she is out and about, looking for a place to eat or drink, in a foreign country or at home.
We think the future of local reviews looks a lot like Twizoo and are excited to back the very talented Madeline and John in the next phase of the business.