Using the power of crowds to answer “what should we do tonight?”


This post was originally published on the Digital Initiative’s classroom blogging platform.

Leveraging the real-time data from crowds to make the best of the day and night


Using the power of crowds to find the crowds

Whether you have lived in a city for many years, or are visiting a city on vacation for the first time, one is constantly faced with two highly relevant questions?—?1) what should I do tonight / today? and 2) will there be other people there? While there are some resources to provide guides to transitory events happening in a city (concerts, street fairs, etc.) and review websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor which can help you have an idea of what is going on in any particular city, these all rely on static data. Imagine receiving traffic updates which say the 101 freeway is typically backed-up between 4–7PM or accidents are likely this weekend on the 405 because of heavy rain conditions; while helpful, what you really need is what is the current state of the traffic right now.

Value Creation

Similar to the way the Waze transformed traffic reporting by leveraging the power of crowds imagine if you had to find the ability to figure out where people in the city were going right now and overlay it with event calendars, restaurant / bar directories, and business directories. Often people are not even aware of events going on in their own city; there isn’t currently one great resource for discovering local events, and even if there were there are not great ways to figure out if the event is well-attend or not. By seeing where people are currently or intended to head (can add a intent to attend function), one can effectively discover events throughout the city. Add some filters (age, gender, interests etc.) and you have a very powerful tool to figuring out what is happening in the city and find what like minded people are doing at any particular time.

This tool doesn’t have to be for merely transitory event discovery. Imagine if you could know which bars in Boston were packed with people with long-lines outside, with these cold Boston winters may be better to avoid. A club is totally empty tonight??—?wouldn’t it be great to know before paying cover? There is an unusual number of people than average at a venue??—?that’s because there’s a famous DJ playing there tonight.

The value of a product like this is even more accentuated for people visiting a particular city as they likely have less of grasp of what is going on or where to go in any particular city. Imagine traveling to a new city and instead of relying on Yelp or TripAdvisor to guess where the trendy spot is to get a post-dinner drink, to leverage the live data of where people actually are.

Value Capture

This would be a great top of the funnel method for local business and events to advertise and drive traffic to their venue or event. People using the app are looking for something to do, imagine if you could reach these high intent individuals with a special offers to get them to go to your event or venue. Even better, as you drive traffic to your venue other people can see people head that way, creating a positive feedback loop where traffic drives more traffic to your venue or event.

On the customer side, you could allow customers to pay for additional functionality or filters. You could offer the service for free in somebody’s “home city” and have people pay for a travel mode which allows the app to active in a different city. An additional functionality is the ability to create private groups, so you can see not only “where are people in Boston headed tonight?” but also share and find out “where are my friends headed tonight?” You could also imagine allowing people to pay for additional filters, including likely the most high-demand filter which is to allow people to filter for gender.

Why the Crowds Will Participate

The solution will provide very generic information to people in order to provide for a highly valuable service while protecting privacy. Similar to Waze, you could share where you are or where you are going but nobody would know that it is you who is there, just that one person or depending on what you choose to disclose, one male-aged 28 year old with a graduate degree who lives in Boston metro is headed. There are strong network effects to the business as the more people on the app, the more valuable the app is, but even a small sample of people at or headed to a place may provide signals that there might be something interesting going on.

People in the end will hopefully utilize and share on the platform because the current solutions are rooted in static time, while what is more relevant is a combination of real-time data and intent. Humans social creatures who want to be where other people are the current solutions utilize a combination of personal experience (I’ve been there before and it’s fun), static information (there is street fair happening at 7PM), and other’s previous experience (you read on Yelp that this bar is fun). There is a big market to leverage technology and the power of crowds to provide useful, real-time information to discover and inform the experiences which comprise our social lives.

Authored By

  • Kevin Wei

    Kevin (MBA ’17) is a vice president with Francisco Partners.