To clarify, whether or not you split the bill is up to you, but TAABS makes it faster and easier to find bars, clubs, and restaurants in NYC that are most likely to suit your tastes, no matter what you happen to fancy on any given evening in the big city. The iOS app allows users to search from any of 150+ keywords/features to find exactly what they ‘re looking for on any given night. And the content is curated, complete with insider notes and professional photos.
Cofounder and CEO Brian Helfman gives us the inside scoop on his new app for the perfect night out.
Tell us about the product.
TAABS is an iOS app that helps answer the question, “Where should we go tonight?” Our goal is to make nightlife venue search as quick, easy, and informative as possible.
How is it different?
Rather than crowdsourcing reviews, like Yelp or Foursquare, we provide curated content in the form of searchable keywords, insider notes, and professional photos. This allows users to search for any combination of our 150+ keywords and features, ranging from Outdoor Space and Good Beer Selection to Irish Pub and Big Buck Hunter.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Currently, we are only providing our search solution in NYC, primarily to the 2.85 million people between 18-39. We will begin expanding to other major cities in 2017. Eventually, TAABS will be usable anywhere that nightlife exists. More than age and gender, we consider different user personas. Some examples:
-Planning a date
-Planning a company happy hour
-Planning a birthday party
-Meeting a friend for drinks
-Meeting friends to watch the game
-Tourists or new New Yorkers still getting to know the city
What is the business model?
Venues Partnerships – nightlife venues will soon be able to promote their own content (menu, specials, event schedule) on the app, alongside our curated content, through paid partnerships. We bring the chalkboard sitting outside a venue into the hands of our users. We will push these specials to our users in real time. In a survey we conducted amongst our target demographic, 68% of respondents said they would choose a place to go based on specials being offered.
What inspired the business?
My business partner, Max, and I first conceptualized the idea for TAABS on Thanksgiving Eve 2011. As native New Yorkers, we both knew the city pretty well, and were often asked by friends for recommendations on places to go. Some of our friends would occasionally use a search provider like Yelp, Foursquare, or UrbanDaddy, but the consensus was that the search solutions out there were either too biased and cluttered, or simply did not provide accurate results. After months of late night meetings and research, we came up with a simple solution – curated searchable keywords. We were going to attribute keywords and features to every nightlife venue in the city. By May 2014, we had the beginnings of our information database set up, put a great team in place, and began working full time on our mission of becoming the go to resource for people asking themselves, “Where should we go tonight?”
According to your data, what are the hottest nightlife venues in NYC right now?
Our data is set up to be objective, focusing on accuracy and conciseness. We don’t tell users where to go based on what’s hot; rather, we give them the tools to decide for themselves. You can search for a Speakeasy with a Good Whiskey Selection and Mixology, or a Sports Bar with Outdoor Space and a Pool Table, and any other combination of keywords you can think of. Just not “What’s Hot?” We are keeping track of most searched venues, but data on that isn’t conclusive enough to report. Down the road, we plan on implementing social features that will show you places your friends have saved or favorited, what’s trending, etc.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
In six months (November 2015), we plan to reach 40,000 unique users, 20 venue partners, complete development of the Android app, and enhance our web presence with more nightlife related content.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Most of what I have learned about startups I learned along the way. I think I’ve learned more in the last year than in the previous 25. If there is one piece of advice that I wish I received earlier, it is to prioritize the things that are most important for user acquisition and growth. Throughout a given day, there are 1000 little issues that come up on the product, marketing, and/or fundraising side of the business. No matter what facet of the business you are focused on, as a founder of a consumer facing mobile solution, you must always have your sights set on doing things that will attract and retain users.
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?
There are so many that I would love to get in touch with but if I had to choose one, it would probably be Ben and Kenneth Lerer from LererHippeau Ventures. I think we could learn a lot from Ben Lerer, who had similar motivations in his decision to start Thrillist, which began as an email newsletter to tell New Yorkers about new bar and restaurant openings. Thrillist is a great web based content provider to a similar demographic that we are trying to reach. I think they would want to align with a company like ours, focusing on the mobile side of venue search. I’ve also heard that Lerer Ventures invests in one seed stage company per week.
Why did you launch in New York?
We launched in New York for two reasons:
1) NY is home – we know the city well and we want to contribute to the growing NY tech scene
2) NYC is the food & drink capital of the world. Out of the 70,000 nightlife venues in the US, there are around 13,000 in the 20 most populated cities, and around 2,800 of those are in NYC. We think if we can make TAABS a success here, it will translate well to other cities.
Where is your favorite outdoor bar in the city?
Love this question. My personal favorite is the backyard at the Mulberry Project – they change up the design every summer but it’s always a cool relaxed vibe with good cocktails. Also, despite the horrendous late-night scene, I do like B Bar & Grill for their outdoor brunch. Lastly, can never go wrong with the 5 or 6 spots on Stone Street down in the Financial District.