High school junior launches TagDat, an emoji-based local reviews app

Buffy Li was incredibly patient when she took time off from her Spring Split to speak to me.

Li, an 11th grader at Santa Cruz’s Kirby prep school, expended most of the 7 days off coordinating the start of her new application, TagDat. While she’s stressed about having her ducks in a row, the application is actually the second startup she’s labored on, so she is aware how it goes.

As one particular of the founders of TagDat, a nascent would-be Yelp competitor with $280,000 in pre-seed funding, Li doesn’t have time for substantially of a social daily life. She does, however, control to dutifully maintain an Instagram account for her cat, a cornflower blue-eyed ragdoll named Bailey (at the time of crafting, Bailey had 27,400 followers).

Buffy Li, co-founder

Li created TagDat with co-founders Wilson Li (no relation), 21, and University of California student Zheng Cai, 31. The team brings together Li’s minimalist structure ideals and foodie bent with Cai’s huge data chops (he’s an astrophysics publish-doc and NASA Hubble Fellow) and Wilson Li’s startup understanding.

Prior to TagDat, Li taught herself application structure with her initial application, Haorizi, a Chinese social network for gals, when a family members friend wanted to convey one more designer in to collaborate with the company’s existing team.

“I have often been fascinated in all sorts of coming up with,” Li reported. “I’ve attempted a ton of issues in the previous, drawing, oil portray and whatnot. I truly really like UI/UX structure for internet sites.”


Just a few years back, Li’s family members moved to Santa Cruz from Wuxi, “a rather smaller but produced city” near Shanghai. Due to the fact shifting, she’s been balancing her intercontinental function vacation with her other responsibilities, like AP Physics.

After the TagDat team received a prototype off the ground, they related with Shanghai Man Feng Asset Administration Firm, which chipped in $250,000 in a pre-seed round.

“We introduced them with the thought, and we had a operating prototype at that time,” Li recounts. “Both my companion and I received to give the pitch. We divided it 50 percent and 50 percent and I coated the complex structure side and he coated extra the promoting side.”

In an industry typically overtly hostile to gals two times her age, Li has not had substantially hassle proving herself. “In most encounters I’m truly fortunate that people truly consider me critically and that they think in what I’m undertaking.” Li observed that any skeptics went tranquil just after the app raised its first money.

TagDat departs from Yelp’s mold in a several means. For one particular, it is shiny and playful, extra like Foursquare but with no the gamification or identity crisis. But the core variance is that TagDat depends on tags somewhat than text. It’s like the emoji equal of local company opinions, allowing people charge a area with at-a-glance descriptors like “spicy” or “authentic” somewhat than digging by means of a bunch of not incredibly searchable text.

If you talk to Li, Yelp buries its most practical information and facts, and even when it doesn’t, “the success aren’t incredibly fantastic.” Of training course, as a new local opinions application, TagDat demands to combat an uphill fight to populate its database. For now, it will rely on a mix of exterior listings like Google Locations mixed with data from alpha/beta testers.

Due to the fact pre-determined tags can be parsed even extra effortlessly than text, TagDat ideas to examine how people describe its listings and market thorough analyses to the enterprises it lists somewhat than relying on promoting revenue.

Li and team think that the strain for enterprises to advertise is biased toward proven providers, and that can dampen the results of up-and-coming enterprises. While the launch is only in beta, the team is presently operating on the app’s future set of capabilities as it seeks to elevate all over $four million in a proper seed round.

Not like Li’s first application, TagDat will concentrate on a U.S. sector, hoping to develop some desire where Yelp has long gone stale. The beta is out there in the Application Store now and you can adhere to Bailey the cat at @baileyragdoll.







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