Los Angeles is a top tourist destination, attracting visitors from near and far with its sunshine and palm trees. Those who actually live in Los Angeles, however, can attest to the fact that the City of Angels can at times be underwhelming. There’s only so many times you can visit LACMA or stroll along the Walk of Fame before landmarks begin to lose their appeal. USC alumnus Ali Khoshgozaran, aware of the problem Angelenos face, founded Watsup, an app that allows users to check out what is happening around their location.
The new app, launched a month ago, compiles all the interesting events going on around a user. With just one click, you can discover new restaurants, gallery openings or museum exhibitions right on your news feed. The app’s vibrant design and aesthetic lets users seamlessly scroll through Instagrams or tweets of a Dodgers game or local music festival. Users can also explore other cities, including New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas through their newsfeed.
The app’s mascot, a technicolor octopus, epitomizes the multitude of possibilities in the vicinity and beyond. This octopus’ many arms represent how one can be anywhere at once, and it signifies the large variety of cool events that can pop up on your newsfeed.
“With a single slide, you can ‘watch’ the grand opening of a hotel in Las Vegas 300 miles away and with another swipe you can follow a fashion show 3000 miles away in New York as it unfolds in real-time,” Khoshgozaran said. “So, this whole motion of the app allows you to go anywhere you want, very quickly. So the octopus is our way of indicating this power for you.”
Khoshgozaran graduated from the Viterbi School of Engineering with a Ph.D. in computer science in 2010. Upon starting his own consulting firm after graduation, he discovered that tech companies were amassing large amounts of data. Watsup utilizes that data so that users are able to access it at any time.
“When I graduated from USC, I started a consulting company with my partner, Alireza, and then we did some software development for a client,” Khoshgozaran said. “And because we both had technical backgrounds, we started thinking about how we could build a company around real-time data, because there is so much of it.”
Khoshgozaran reflected on how helpful attending USC for his Ph.D. degree was. He noted that USC’s famous Trojan Family offered invaluable assets to the success of Watsup. Also, Viterbi’s newest incubator “Viterbi Startup Garage” helped catalyze the launch of his app.
“USC was instrumental for this whole thing and in so many angles,” Khoshgozaran said. “[Number one,] my Ph.D. supervisor was our first company advisor. Number two, we actually decided to join an incubator at USC. USC gave us a very strong network of resources, academic resources to hire from, mentors to talk to, advisors to speak with.”
To obtain data, Khoshgozaran and his team employ many complicated algorithms as the most efficient way to gather data from within a user’s vicinity. The algorithm combs through the Internet and social media sites to deliver real-time results. This app is the perfect way for users to access and utilize big data to their own benefit. And users are responding positively to this innovative way of consuming information.
“It has been a month since we have been up in the app store. And there is a lot of engagement and excitement from our users. To give you an idea, over the past few weeks, people have been swiping around 100,000 times,” Khoshgozaran said. “So the reception has been overwhelming, one third of people spend over 1-3 minutes on the app. They launch it multiple times a week. We are getting a ton of feedback from our users, and we are working on a massive update.”
Although Watsup is currently only open in five cities, Khoshgozaran hinted that the company will be going global, and that it will be open to users on Android devices. Going international implies that users will be using this app as a travel aid. Khoshgozaran has said that users have reported back in a positive manner for travel.
“Our future plan is to expand our coverage to more cities and devices. Android and other major U.S. cities are coming soon. We also have a lot of people who travel, and users have said that it is such an organic way to see cities in a new way,” Khoshgozaran said.
Khoshgozaran also left a little teaser for users.
“I can’t really talk about it yet, but a little hint: We are talking with a couple of celebrities for the future.”