News Column

Fine-tuning Your Dining Preferences

March 11, 2013

Donna Goodison

A Cambridge startup is making it easier for diners to choose from the 200-plus eateries participating in Boston's Winter Restaurant Week this month.

Nara Logics aims to become for restaurants what Pandora is for music.

After users of Nara's website or mobile application answer a few questions, an algorithm uses the information to create their "personal digital DNA" and match their tastes to restaurants. Nara developed a special filter for Restaurant Week to narrow the field.

"We're a personalized web engine," CEO Tom Copeman said. "We like to say we're 'Pandorifying' other key consumer lifestyle categories on the Web, and we're starting with restaurants."

Users can fine-tune their dining preferences by giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to restaurants.

Searching the Web is so 20 years ago, according to Copeman. Now it's about "finding and getting something recommended to you," he said. "We're sort of the between restaurant and consumers."

Nara's patented "Nara Neural Network" is powered by an artificial intelligence-like architecture that trolls sites and emulates users' thinking patterns.

In stealth mode for two years, Nara made its public debut last June and launched its products in November. The company generates revenue from users who book restaurant reservations on OpenTable, order takeout from GrubHub or book a ride from Uber through its site. The company also has fielded interest from companies interested in using Nara's technology to power their own sites, Copeman said.

Nara's restaurant recommendation engine is available in 50 North American cities, and the company plans to expand into areas such as shopping and hotels.

Nara has $7 million in funding to date, led by Boston investment advisory firm Account Management.

"I don't do many startups," Account Management founder Peter de Roetth said. "I invest in people, and it was the combination of (Copeman and CTO Nathan Wilson)."

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Source: (c)2013 the Boston Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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