Boston tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul English doesn’t want to stay in a Motel 6 when he goes to Miami or eat $10 sushi when he’s in New York City.
But those are the kinds of places that are recommended to him when he searches for where to go on popular review sites, such as Tripadvisor or Yelp.
“Reviews are either fake or irrelevant — that has always bothered me,” English said. “A lot of people writing reviews don’t have my sense of preferences, so why am I reading their reviews?”
It’s a longstanding problem. And one that the travel-tech expert hopes to solve with a new app he launched out of his venture studio on Thursday called Deets, short for “details.” It’s a social app where friends can post reviews of local restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. The app features all the “deets” someone might look for before trying a new restaurant, including photos, a menu, and prices.
“The idea is, ‘Show me the deets.’ ‘What are the deets?’ ” he said.
Deets will launch in Boston and surrounding areas, including Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and Arlington. The goal is to expand into other metro areas, such as New York City, Miami, and Los Angeles.
English has hired students at Boston University, Northeastern, Harvard, and MIT to promote the app on their campuses. And when people download Deets, they can choose to follow about a dozen local food influencers, who have already started using the app and posting content.
“You should read reviews from people you trust, which are your friends, and influencers you decide to follow,” English said.
During its first year, Deets will focus on restaurants and then museums, tourist attractions, and hotels. Down the road, English said it will offer reviews on everything from electronics to movies.
The app isn’t just about following friends and influencers. Deets will use a machine learning technique called “look-alike models,” to figure out similarities among users.
In fact, applying artificial intelligence to reviews is what makes this interesting. The goal is for Deets to know so much about people’s preferences that it could give someone who lives in Boston the best advice for places they might want to try when visiting a new city.
“TikTok uses that to model content for you, and we’re going to be doing that for recommendations,” he said, adding that “TikTok has nailed my tastes.” (His feed regularly features bass players, dogs, and gardening.)
English made millions as the cofounder of travel search engine Kayak, which sold for about $2 billion a decade ago. At Boston Venture Studio, which he launched at the start of this year, he’s focused on the “zero-to-one” stage of consumer app companies: coming up with an interesting idea and then building a team.
Deets has hired a CEO but isn’t naming them yet. The company, which has just over a dozen employees, will likely raise outside money in the beginning of next year.
English currently has nine apps under development, but he said he’s spending 90 percent of his time on Deets.
“We want to blow up the review ecosystem,” he said. “You should never read a review by a bot, and you should never read a review from a stranger who likes $10 sushi.”