A change of direction for travel startup Kukunu after just 18 months of operation with a new site called Scoville, targeting destination services and recommendations.
The new site, currently just four weeks into a private beta test using the likes of uber-tech blogger Robert Scoble and FourSquare co-founder Dennis Crowley, works by providing tips about services and products in a particular destination, all created by other users of the service.
Although not primarily a tourism-related service, visitors to a city may be tempted to look for recommendations for things to do and other services (restaurants, nightlife etc) using the system.
To populate the database of recommendations, Scoville has been running a weekly Twitter-led initiative to automatically capture tips from users, using the #toptuesday hashtag.
Scoville has monitored the tweets to feed the recommendation engine and offer tips to other users, by looking at other likes, similarities between users and their social reputation (using Klout) to offer new places to explore in a city.
Co-founder Itamar Lesuisse says:
"The team’s vision is to leverage the small signals infrastructure, all these signals that we send on a daily basis such as a check-in or a picture, to reinvent the way we explore cities. These geo-located signals carry a great value when it comes to building users’ interest graph."
As to the fate on Kukunu [TLabs Showcase - Kukunu], Lesuisse says the site's users were planning an average of two trips per year using the system but "not enough to really feed our recommendation engine", thus a decision was made to switch to a local discovery system where the focus would be on interaction between users at a better rate.
At the time Scoville uses FourSquare as its main check-in system but will evolve to include Facebook Places and others.
During the private beta test around 5,000 users have joined, with cities such as New York, San Francisco, London, Santiago de Chile and Sao Paolo featuring heavily.