Netflix's movie recommendations feel a little off sometimes. After watching "Sixteen Candles," the streaming service's data-driven algorithm recommends "Clueless" and "Footloose," but also "Jaws" and "American Horror Story." The math doesn't add up.
Enter FilmFish, a movie recommendation startup that relies on people, not computers, to suggest what to watch. The startup is set to launch its iPhone app on Friday after a summer of 10,000 monthly active users on its website.
"We thought we could create a superior system just using human judgment, the judgment of film buffs," said Phillip Sull, cofounder of FilmFish. "We are trying to capture the way people already think about movies...the natural language people use to describe these films."
FilmFish was founded in 2014, and until recently, operated out of the Cambridge Innovation Center. Sull moved to Los Angeles in June to be closer to investors.
The initial seed funding came from Sull's father, Donald Sull, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Since then, serial entrepreneur and Y Combinator graduate Simon Borrero and Sundance-featured producer Daniel Posada have joined the team as investors. FilmFish recently closed another funding round, bringing the total to $250,000.
Users can sign up for FilmFish with an e-mail or Facebook account. People can search for a movie and see similar titles, or start with the traditional genres — comedy, action, romance — that branch off into FilmFish's "smart-genres."
FilmFish has categorized around 20,000 movies into 2,000 categories. It has less than a half dozen curators and periodically uses interns.
"Your Fix of Boston Grit" lists titles like "The Departed," "Black Mass," and "Southie." The "Cage Rage" category names movies featuring an angry Nicolas Cage, like "Con Air," "Time to Kill," and nearly all his other films.
Each movie on FilmFish includes icons to show what streaming site it's available on, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Vudu. It also shows each movie's ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.
Sull believes the time is right for his app because streaming services are producing more original series and viewership is growing.
"Our goal is you're not visiting the Netflix homepage anymore, you're not visiting the Amazon Prime homepage anymore," Sull said. "You're coming to us, and we're the homepage of your movie subscriptions."
The FilmFish team has already curated hundreds of categories for television shows and is currently working on its Android app. Sull expects both to be ready for launch by the end of November.