Start-up Sunday: Qloo, a ‘cultural discovery’ search engine

A screenshot of actor Danny Masterson’s Qloo profile

If you are like me and spend hours trawling the Web to find the next best restaurant, travel destination or book, you might want to take a look at Qloo, a new “cultural discovery platform” that aims to make searches more personal and easier.

The New York start-up, which launched in November, offers recommendations based on the user’s tastes in music, film, TV, dining, nightlife, fashion, books and travel.

“We are culturally much more than just your taste in an individual category,” said Alex Elias, who co-founded Qloo with Jay Alger, chief executive of digital agency Deepend. Elias added that he was socially fatigued by other online personal recommendation services such as Pandora, Netflix and Foursquare, which limit suggestions to individualized niches.

Thus came Qloo (pronounced “clue”). “You give a clue and get clued in,” Elias said. 


Elias, a former hedge fund manager, calls Qloo an “inspiration engine” and a one-stop shop for suggestions in movies to watch, books to read, places to travel, etc., “all from the people who are most culturally like-minded to you.”

As a user adds more of his or her preferences to each of the eight categories, Qloo generates suggestions based on the selections provided by other users with similar taste, as well as more personalized recommendations based on the user’s “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.”

Your taste in fashion might very well have something to do with which bar you prefer or your favorite travel destination: “There are relationships between different areas of culture that are worth exploring,” Elias said.

For example, Qloo helps users find a new restaurant from the people who most share their taste in music or fashion, or find a book to read based on their taste in movies. Essentially this means you can decide whose recommendations you want.


Qloo currently has 20,000 members, and its well-known investors and users include Cedric the Entertainer and Danny Masterson. The start-up is backed by $1.4 million in seed funding from Kindler Capital.

“Our aim is to be the best resource for making cultural choices and to get people out of their comfort zone and try something new,” Elias said.

I recently created a Qloo account and found myself addicted to adding “qloos,” the same way I am addicted to “pinning” on Pinterest. The desktop website is easy to navigate, and the mobile Web browser feature is helpful -- especially when I am out and on a hunt to find a nearby restaurant or bar.

Qloo’s founders plan to roll out native iOS and Android apps in the coming months.

The nightlife and restaurant categories are location-based, with recommendations currently available in Los Angeles and New York City. Additional cities including Austin, London, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco are to be featured by the end of this month. Elias said the service also plans to expand to other countries.

Qloo is invitation-only, but invitations can be requested on its website.


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