What Should We Do Tonight? 3 DC Startups Have the Answer

July 9, 2011

11:00 am

Some startups can be hard to decipher, offering hosted databases or cloud-based analytics. But several DC startups are working on something everyone can get behind: having fun. If you’re wondering what to do this summer, be sure to check out Venga, Spontaneous (formerly GetSpontaneous), and BeCouply.

Both Venga and Spontaneous feature local restaurants and events filtered by type, such as drinks, family, or music. They are also location-based, with Venga integrated with Foursquare. If one of their suggestions sounds intriguing, both apps allow you to share it with friends, not only on Facebook and Twitter but also within their platform.

While Spontaneous is built around events, Venga’s free web and mobile app focuses on venues. You create an “A list” of your favorite places – for now, only in the DC area – and then browse their current specials. Spontaneous recommends nearby events using an algorithm that learns your preferences based on what you “plus.” So Spontaneous tries to predict what you might like, and Venga highlights what you already like (though its “Rutbuster” feature is helpful when your favorite dive bar starts looking drab).

Spontaneous, now available for about 25 cities, has been in the works since last August. It was designed to solve the social woes of its cofounders: Mack Kolarich was searching for the best happy hour and Jake Kring had missed out on a hip hop concert.

“People often don’t know what they want to do and are open to suggestions,” says Kolarich. “The idea is you can get spontaneous and do something you hadn’t planned on.”

Spontaneous’s mobile-enabled website is still in beta, but once they release their mobile app – and add more features for synching with calendars, getting reminders, and keeping track of events you’re attending – it will be even easier to be spontaneous. Their database for DC boasts thousands of events per month, culled from websites like Eventbrite and Meetup.com.

Venga’s listings come from vendors, who pay to advertise specials and events on the app. “We’re all about helping the restaurants market in ways that are profitable and sustainable,” says cofounder Sam von Pollaro, who turns to Venga himself when he has a rare night free.

Users who sign up for Venga can now enter the “priceless prizes” contest, to win experiences like a cocktail-making class at Zaytinya or dinner cooked by a Top Chef contestant. They also have access to deals exclusive to Venga.

If the offerings of Venga and Spontaneous aren’t romantic enough, BeCouply is targeted directly at couples. Launching in beta this summer, BeCouply is a free web and mobile app for couples to discover new date ideas. It also allows you to capture and post photos, connect with other couples, and browse relevant daily deals.

Like Kolarich, the BeCouply team wants to add a little spontaneity to your life. “We heard again and again that couples end up going to just a handful of places for dates,” says Becky Cruze, who is participating in the NewME accelerator program with her cofounder and boyfriend Pius Uzamere. “Our goal is to help couples have epic social lives, partly by providing fun, new date ideas.”

The bottom line: Venga is great for keeping track of your favorite restaurants, Spontaneous for finding events when you’re bored, and BeCouply for planning date night. Luckily, you don’t have to pick just one.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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