If you haven’t heard of Dojo, you need to get out more. The app will help you do so: Plug in your needs and it finds exclusive, new, and underground leisure spots in London that attract young crowds. These are hidden gems — including restaurants, bars, pop-up shops, and exhibitions — that might otherwise be missed.
Dojo, which launched in August 2014, is available to everyone. However, it started off as a favourite of those in the finance sector, especially young bankers who have plenty of disposable income but little time to search for a place to unwind.
“We did see people in the finance sector compelled by the app,” CEO Robbie Shimmin told Business Insider UK. “I think people in that industry are switched on to new products coming out — maybe they don’t have the time or are new to the city. Obviously they have got disposable income too, so want to go out a lot.”
Dojo is the brainchild of three Bristol graduates who moved to the capital and yearned for easier ways to explore. Shimmin, 25, was working at Lotus F1 and found going out and finding exciting things to do a challenge. He was joined by friends Dev Karaca, formerly of Ersnt & Young, and Nick Dart, who was at Deutsche. Together, the trio conspired to make something fresh for London’s cultural goings-on.
They built the app in 5 months while sharing a bedroom in Old Street.
Things appear to be going well. The team announced £800,000 of funding on Monday.
On the announcement, the team explained: “Dojo makes finding an independent Venezuelan coffee shop or a quirky pop-up bar as quick and easy as finding your nearest Starbucks or Wetherspoons. It’s our understanding of how young Londoners want to spend their days and nights in the city. People our age want unique, different experiences and this is exactly what we specialise in.”
While it was the finance world that first picked up on Dojo, plenty more are now downloading it.
“We’ve actually got a pretty good spread,” Shimmin said. “Actors, artists, people in the media — there are loads of young people in London and they don’t want to trawl through lists and lists of things. Dojo is about tailoring what you want to do quickly.”
The £800K investment is led by Playfair Capital, with participation from Saatchinvest, the investment arm of advertising giant M&C Saatchi (backers of Citymapper), and several angel investors.
Boris Johnson is also involved. The London mayor has announced Dojo as the first investment of the London Co-Investment Fund (LCIF), an initiative set up to support budding tech startups in the capital.
“We’ve lashed out £180,000 to support this wonderful app. Dojo is the way to enjoy London,” the mayor said in a statement.
Shimmin tells us Dojo is set to grow more with updated back-end content curation and thousands of more “user experiences” — real knowledge of where to go and when. The team handpicks galleries and pubs and tests them out.
Shimmin says it works with “hyper-locality in mind,” and says it’s like the Hackney Gazette or Peckham Peculiar of apps — underground community fixtures that might otherwise go unchecked.
Dojo searches out what’s happening and tries to be first to the latest openings and events. The £800,000 is going to be used to further refine the company’s back-end algorithm that finds content online and feeds it back into Dojo’s two editorial staff who churn it out to users.
Now Dojo is going abroad, Shimmin said. “We’re looking at new cities and we’ve got a plan in mind. We want to see ‘dynamic cities,’ where young people arrive, book an Airbnb, find somewhere to go on Dojo, and book an Uber to get there — all in a matter of minutes.”
People can even book an Uber through the app.
Shimmin also says he thinks Dojo is vastly different to competitors, such as Y Plan or TimeOut.
“YPlan only provides cheap tickets and TimeOut offers things to do for all ages and takes too much time to filter through, neither focused on young people. Dojo focuses particularly on unique, independent places to eat, drink and visit in the city; ranging from restaurants to bars, to exhibitions and pop-ups,” Shimmin said.
Dojo V2, the upgraded version of the tool, is expected to come out in the next few months. At the moment it’s only available on iOS, but next month Android will also get the service. Shimmin wouldn’t reveal where Dojo will launch next — but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s New York.