What do copper mugs, flannel shirts, new app technology and taxidermy all have in common?
They were all present in full force at the Sosh Campfire Social party Thursday night on Capitol Hill at Melrose Market Studios. Seattle’s favorite soul singer in glasses, Allen Stone, serenaded the audience as they munched on grilled hot dogs from Skillet, tweeted about the party and sipped specialty cocktails from Canon.
The party was a celebration for the Sosh app’s debut in Seattle last month. Sosh is already very popular in San Francisco and New York City and has the tagline: Life’s too short to be bored. (In San Francisco, nearly 1 in 6 residents is a Sosh user!) Also available online, it can help you pick your next hike, find a great restaurant for an eggs benedict brunch, or the best place to hit the water on a sunny Sunday.
Sosh was founded by former Google employees and has raised of total of $15 million from Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures and other investors.
Here’s a Q&A with Rishi Mandal, co-founder and CEO of Sosh. His career has taken him from NASA to Google and he’s now hoping to change the way you interact with Seattle.
What’s your background? How did you find yourself here tonight?
I was born and raised in the Bay area and never left. I had a cool experience as a kid when my dad started a startup in our garage with three other guys. They quit their jobs and had this amazing dream. And as their company grew, our dining room became a conference room and there were whiteboards everywhere. So I got to watch it grow from nothing to the ultimate success. They sold the company for three billion dollars and were on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. As a kid, I was too young to really remember it all or know exactly how cool that is, but I did know that something creative happened there and it was exciting. It was a really inspiring moment. I knew that I also wanted to build great stuff.
What makes Seattle different from San Francisco or New York? Do you tailor the app to the city?
It’s a driving city, which is different from the other cities that we’re in. That was definitely something to adapt to. I think there’s just an insane food scene here. It seems like there’s a new restaurant every hour. I think the amazing thing about Seattle is the breadth of interests that people have. I don’t mean this as a slight, but in New York City everything is about food and drinking. But in Seattle, it’s the water and hiking and the mountains. And the food.
What makes Sosh different from other startups in Silicon Valley?
It’s not just all technology and algorithms. We combine technology with humans and instincts. We have city managers who take a look at our data and make decisions. We believe in curation and blending the two. I’d really like to find the balance there.
What would be your advice for people looking to start their own startup?
That’s a big question. But I would say, starting a startup is venturing into unknown territory. It starts with a lot of questions you have to answer. The first is: What’s the problem here? So at Sosh, the vision is: Let’s make the experience of the offline world as seamless as the online world. Everything should be snappy, responsive, beautifully designed. Servicing you. But that’s such a broad thing, you wouldn’t even know where to start. So when you get to starting a startup, you have to find out what is the problem that people have today that you can solve today. And how can I build a product around that? You should also ask yourself: Why now? It’s a question a lot of smart people don’t ask. Flying cars might be a great idea someday. But why now? Also, everyone is going to tell you’re crazy. And if people aren’t telling you you’re crazy, you’re probably not doing something exciting. You have to have a certain conviction to continue to soldier on. It’s a really weird job to have.