Zoodango Relaunches, Ditching Social Networking for Location-Based Meeting Up

1/14/09

For James Sun, runner-up on season six of The Apprentice and CEO of Seattle-based Zoodango, it’s all about getting people together. And he wants to help them find meeting spots. Yesterday, he announced the launch of the re-tooled Zoodango, once a social-networking site and now a map-based service where users use a “geo-search engine” to find local businesses based on location.

Zoodango’s new angle to finding restaurants, shops, and other businesses is the way you search—by location instead of search term, so those with subpar Google-fu still have a chance. It also allows you to see multiple categories of businesses in one location, a task that requires several clicks on sites like Yelp and Citysearch.

“We help people plan their whole evening,” Sun said in an interview. “Say you want to go to a sushi restaurant, then round two, you want to go get some drinks, then later go on to a club.”

Yesterday’s launch includes sites for Seattle, Spokane, Portland, San Francisco, and Oakland. In two weeks, the company will add Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Reno, and Tucson. By February, Sun says, Chicago and the East Coast will also be on the map.

Like Yelp and other review sites, users create profiles, and then rank and score local businesses. But Zoodango comes with a social twist, keeping track of its users’ preferences to customize output and make meeting up easier. Say you want to grab dinner with five of your friends, all of whom are also Zoodango users (not likely yet, perhaps, but give it some time). You can choose a few restaurants and Zoodango will show you how much of a hit they’ll be—if one of your friends has only reviewed vegetarian restaurants, for instance, you’ll know not to suggest the latest steakhouse.

For picky types, the site also uses an algorithm to rank businesses based on Zoodango user scores and outside ratings from other review sites, so instead of facing a list of 30 four-star pizza joints and having to read through all their reviews, you’ll know exactly how your local pizza shop ranks compared to all of Seattle’s other pizza spots.

Sun, a University of Washington grad who previously worked at Deloitte Consulting, started Zoodango nearly two years ago, intending it to be a local social-networking site. But when Facebook … Next Page »

Rachel Tompa is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. She can be reached at rmtompa@yahoo.com. Follow @

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