Dojo, the London-based app favoured by young bankers that finds exclusive, new, underground night spots, will launch in Paris.
It’s a move that the Dojo founders — Robin Shimmin, Nick Dart, and Davran Karaca — anticipated but didn’t expect this early on.
“We are beyond excited,” the team told Business Insider in an email. “If you had told us eight months ago (when we were sleeping on our friend’s sofas and handing out A4 sheets of paper outside tube stations,) that we would have hundreds of thousands of downloads in London and a team ready to launch in Paris, we would never have believed you.”
The app launched in January 2014 and guides users through the capital’s most revered and celebrated nightlife. It aims to be hyper-local and community focused, and tries to spot the hottest events before anyone else. It looks for hidden gems — restaurants, bars, pop-up shops, and exhibitions — that might otherwise be missed.
Dojo has been championed by London mayor Boris Johnson. It received £800,000 in investment funding eight months after setting up, and has grown its user base into the hundreds of thousands, its founders told me. They added that 1 in 4 users come back every day to engage.
The plan is to be “to city discovery what Uber is to travel,” Shimmin, the CEO, told me last week. “For me personally, this [Paris] is one box ticked on a very long list. In my eyes we’re at the base camp of Everest right now, still wearing our flip flops.”
As well as the news that Dojo is crossing the English Channel, the founders are talking to venture capitalists, all keen to get a slice of the app’s potential. “We are speaking with a number of the top VCs in the US & Europe right now about raising our Series A investment,” CMO James Cadwallader told me.
“We are looking to close the round by the end of this year. In terms of how much, that will depend on how everything goes throughout the next few months. We are getting early indicators that this will be a big round, though.”
The founders wouldn’t confirm any investors, but the first batch included Playfair Capital, Saatchinvest (which backed Citymapper), and the London Co-investment Fund.
Federico Pirzio-Biroli, founder of Playfair Capital, said in today’s Dojo press release: “Dojo is growing at a frightening pace. Everybody I speak to is excited to see what these guys will do next”
Dojo now employs around 20 staff — all in their 20s — and the team told me that the Paris launch “signals the first step in Dojo’s aggressive global expansion plan.”
Shimmin said: “We’re aiming to solve the problem of city discovery that competitors such as Foursquare and Yelp have failed to crack.
“People don’t want to know everything going on around them, what they want to discover is the best.”
Karaca is the COO, and was crucial in putting together the technical side of launching in Paris. He said it took just seven weeks to prepare, and explained that doing it really helped better understand the process.
“I believe we can execute our next launch in less than a month, which is a homage to how scalable our business is and why investors are excited,” he said.
Dojo uses an “intelligent back-end algorithm” named Sherlock, which finds events that content editors then cherry-pick and review. There were some adaptations required for Paris in terms of understanding a more continental audience — but other than that it was simple.
The Dojo guys wouldn’t reveal anything about money. Cadwallader said the business is yet to turn on a revenue stream, but that decision is “out of choice.”
He said: “We know we could generate revenue tomorrow if we needed to — but out main focus is building a product that people love, and it’s about getting it out to as many people as possible.”
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