Boston tech entrepreneur Paul English made a splash last October when he unveiled Deets, a social app for restaurant reviews, from his venture studio.
Now it’s up to the company’s first chief executive, Doug Weiss, who was named on Tuesday and hails from Instagram and Facebook, to turn English’s idea into a business that can stand on its own. Weiss is already pushing expansion plans, launching the app in New York City, where he is based, aiming to set up in a new city every month, with San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami next on the list.
Weiss helped build Instagram’s shopping feature and has worked closely with content creators over the years. That led him to realize consumers were increasingly relying on people they trust to make spending decisions, whether that means their friends or influencers on social media.
“The average person . . . is looking to Instagram and TikTok and YouTube and Twitter and Snapchat, and all the other platforms, to figure out how to spend their money,” he said. “You’re seeing this really prominently in fashion and beauty.”
Weiss said he was intrigued by English’s idea to apply the same theory of trust, where people buy what they see and like on social media, to restaurants, which are places people choose to visit in-person. (The two were connected via the executive headhunting firm Hunt Club.)
Users can post about restaurants on their social media accounts, but Weiss said those apps are not designed to organize that information in a useful way. For example, Instagram feeds are chronological, which makes it difficult to search for restaurant posts, and sometimes people post content to their story, which can only be viewed for a limited amount of time.
The goal, Weiss said, is that Deets will be a one-stop shop for dining, helping users do everything from finding a new place to making a reservation.
The Deets app looks a lot different than it did just a few weeks ago. Weiss said there have been a number of evolutions since the launch, mainly aimed at bringing more value to users.
“To get to, ‘I want a restaurant for a date night in the South End,’ it was not really easy to get to that,” he said, referring to prior versions of the app.
The biggest change included tweaking the Deets algorithm to create a better “dining profile” for users, which is based on food preferences from price to cuisine. That information is both manually entered by users and learned by the app over time, Weiss said.
Deets also added a polling feature, which lets groups vote on which restaurant to go to, and as a way to access restaurant reservation pages.
And there are more changes to come. English said Monday he identified 23 things he hates about the app and wants to fix, including making the search algorithm more accurate.
For instance, if a user searches for seafood restaurants in Boston that would be good for a date night, English wants the five results Deets provides to actually be the best options for that person. “The search algorithm is not perfect yet,” he said. “We’re fixing that this week.”
For now, Deets is still incubating inside Boston Venture Studio, the startup English founded last year to develop consumer-oriented apps. But the startup, which is not yet generating revenue, is in talks with potential investors and hoping to raise money by the end of March.
Weiss said one encouraging sign is that “people get it.”
“When I’m like, ‘Oh, we’re creating this platform to improve the whole decision process of finding a restaurant,’ everyone has been that person on a Friday night where it took them an hour and they ended up at a restaurant that they didn’t like,” he said.