Santa Monica-based startup Lifecrowd announced today that it has raised $5 million in Series A funding from Chicago-based VC firm Lightbank and several other investors for its social activity platform. The tool, which launched in public beta in March and was part of Los Angeles startup accelerator MuckerLab‘s first class, allows people to find and sign up for offline activities in their area, and lets local experts offer activities for people in their neighborhood. It enters a crowded online-to-offline space, with recently-launched startups like Mightybell and Uniiverse trying to capture the local activities market.
“We all have had experiences where we want to do something other than go to a bar, yet when we actually look for something to do, there is no simple way to find a local activity, let alone to coordinate with friends online,” founder Bong Koh said about the motivation behind Lifecrowd. “So we had that ‘aha’ moment where we said we should build this product for ourselves. The result is Lifecrowd and the use case is very simple – we help people meet new people and try cool local activities.”
The Lifecrowd marketplaces showcases events, volunteer opportunities, meetups, and expert-led sessions in local communities. The community is made up of Hosts, the people who create activities, and Enthusiasts, the community of users who find and attend activities, and can invite their friends to join. Users can browse events by category, popular events, or by using the concierge service that matches hosts with attendees. After attending a Lifecrowd event users can write a review, letting others know how it went. Anyone can be a host, from professionals or “well-practiced hobbyists,” can publish their availability to the site, manage bookings, and process transactions. While many activities on the site are free there are paid events as well, which users can pay for using major credit cards. Koh declined to share how many events on the site are free versus paid.
While the events offered on the site vary widely, the company says casual outings of eight to ten people are the ideal activity. Common events include fitness classes, wine tastings and social events like board game nights. For users who have no clue what type of event they want to attend, they can take a personality quiz, which will then offer them activity recommendations. To encourage users to host and attend events, the company runs an Elite Crowders program, which rewards active members with event invites, complimentary events, and other perks.
Online platforms that connect people with offline activities in their area are readily available, from sites with a general focus like Meetup, to niche marketplaces like fitness-themed TrainingMobs. There are also skill-based marketplaces like Skillshare, which are more focused on structured learning but are still attempting to bring online relationships offline. Koh said what sets Lifecrowd apart from sites like Skillshare is more of a focus on social activities. ”The use case is very different if you consider something like looking to learn SEO versus an activity or event that is fun to do with friends on a Friday night,” he said. “This is why Lifecrowd has gained such great momentum, because we focus on events and experiences that are more social than any other company out there.” But Uniiverse and Mightybell also focus on the same social activities as Lifecrowd, and allow users to post and search for activities anywhere in the world.
The company is only live in four cities in California, with plans to expand to 10 major cities across the U.S. Koh said they’ll use the funding to build out the team, and will be adding mobile apps (something Mightybell already offers) and more personalization features. The online-to-offline social activity space is a busy one, with several startups vying for attention from users. The key to any one of these platform’s success will be the quality and number of activities offered, its global availability, and its user adoption. Lifecrowd will have to expand quickly, and offer a better online and mobile experience than its competitors in order to be the company that emerges as the winner.