Vermouth takes on Yelp with new friend-based review app, with backing from hoops star Sue Bird

Vermouth founder and CEO Jamien McCullum. Photo via Saskia Potter Photography.

Using a traditional review app like Yelp, Google, or TripAdvisor can be helpful for those looking to find more information on a business. But they can sometimes be unreliable, too, particularly when it comes to trusting reviews.

That’s why a new Seattle startup has come up with an alternative that focuses on opinions from people you know.

Vermouth launched in Seattle this summer and is already seeing traction with its app that pulls your social networks together and lets you share your favorite places, experiences, and resources — everything from the neighborhood bar to a pediatrician — with folks that you trust.

Vermouth founder and CEO Jamien McCullum told GeekWire that people are more connected now than ever and you no longer need to rely on strangers and stars for advice on where to go.

“We have friends we trust,” he said. “That’s where Vermouth comes in.”

McCullum founded the company last year after his previous startup, a medical review app called DoctorBase, sold to Kareo in 2015. His experience at DoctorBase helped him realize how many businesses actually dislike Yelp; he knew there was a better solution.

“Trust is the true currency of businesses, and Vermouth believes — and I’ve seen personally — that online review sites actually damage the relationship between local businesses and their customers,” he told GeekWire. “Vermouth is an evolution from those review apps for the world today.”

One fan of Vermouth is Sue Bird, the WNBA star who is playing her 15th season with the Seattle Storm and just appeared in her 10th WNBA All Star Game.

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird speaks at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit in June. (GeekWire photo/Kevin Lisota)

Speaking at an event this month hosted by The Riveter, a new co-working space in Seattle, Bird said she was already “Vermouth-ing” before the 4-time Olympic gold medalist learned about the app.

“I was constantly giving advice on where to go,” she explained. “My friends would visit Seattle … and I’d tell them they need to do this or do that.”

Bird, who recently spoke at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit, got connected to McCullum via a mutual friend and decided to take a small stake in Vermouth. We caught up with her at the All-Star Game last month and she described Vermouth as a “Yelp meets Waze meets Instagram.” Bird likes the more personal, 1-to-1 aspect of the app.

“If I followed you on Vermouth, I could see where you like to go to breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” she noted.

Sue Bird at the WNBA All-Star Game in Seattle last month. (GeekWire photo/Kevin Lisota)

Vermouth, which combines “Ver” — Latin for “word” — and mouth, has racked up 5,000 users who have created 7,000 “pins” in 517 cities. McCullum said Vermouth is targeting both people that “know all the places to go and want to share them,” as well as people who simply want to find the hotspots.

He noted that another differentiator of the app is that it’s “only positive.”

“You don’t got to Portland and ask a friend, ‘Hey, tell me the top five places never to go,’” he said. “Vermouth keeps and shares your favorite places with your friends.”

Bird is among a small group of investors that are backing Vermouth, which is donating $ 1 to Planned Parenthood with every download. It’s part of a movement called “Apptivism” that McCullum supports.

GeekWire

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