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The local review and recommendation space is in need of some tidying up. User-generated reviews on sites like Yelp fail to incorporate taste, and often are littered with disingenuous reviews created by the merchants themselves. Meanwhile, recommendation engines like Bizzy and Foursquare Explore require users to share their location on a geo-social network — an activity that remains uncommon in the general public. San-Francisco startup Urbantag wants to help solve the problem.
Founded in 2011, Urbantag enables users to catalogue real-world locations and create personal datasets, which they can curate and share with trusted friends. Rather than bombarding users with a stream of friends’ fragmented opinions about a venue in real-time (i.e. “cheeseburger was good” or “service was lousy”), urbantag provides a tool for “tastemakers” to create and share thoughtfully curated opinions about the places which they know best through maps, recommendations, and wish lists.
“We view [urbantag] as a more personal, socially-integrated version of Yelp,” says founder and CEO Andrew Hoag. “There is a large class of users who don’t care about checking-in, but they still have opinions which the want to record about a particular place. We are a way to curate your physical world.”
By bringing curation to the center, Hoag believes that Urbantag will improve the proposition for discovery as well. “The main difference from others in the space,” he explains, “is that we are built from the ground up to do this sort of curation and all the controls and functionality is around consuming and discovering these curated maps and lists.”
The social component of the service is built around people the company dubs “tastemakers” — power-users, of sorts, whom users can follow in a manner similar to Twitter: “A tastemaker is someone who is assembling or building a group of particular things.” Hoag explains. The Urbantag team believes that the asymmetrical model — the ability to follow, rather than friend — is the most effective means of filtering socially generated content at scale. Crowd-sourcing models used by services like Digg and Yelp mistake popularity for context and “are simply a numbers game,” adds Hoag.
Incubated in Bay Area entrepreneur lounge Founders Den , the company is backed by a handful of angel investors including founders and senior executives from BranchOut, Electronic Arts, Google, and Groupon. The application is currently in a web-only alpha, says Hoag, but the company plans on releasing a mobile application as part of their Beta launch slated for the end of October.