How an 11th Grade Entrepreneur Built Tagdat, A Yelp Alternative That Received $250,000 in Funding

Yelp alternative

While most of the high school juniors prepare for college to land a good career, Buffy Li built TagDat, a Yelp alternative to entering the mobile app market.

Buffy Li, the co-founder of TagDat, is an 11th grader, the student of Santa Cruz’s Kirby prep school, who spent most of her week offs building and coordinating the launch of her new app.

The app is actually the second startup app she’s worked on, so she knows how it goes.

Before TagDat, Li learn mobile app design by herself for her first app, Haorizi, which is a Chinese social network for women. Li said, “I have always been interested in all kinds of designing, I’ve tried a lot of things in the past, drawing, oil painting and whatnot. I really love UI/UX design for mobile apps and websites.”

Li developed local business reviews app – TagDat – with co-founders Wilson Li (no relation), and Zheng Cai, a student of University of California. The team combined Li’s design ideas, Wilson’s startup knowledge, and foodie bent with Cai’s big data chops.

After the team got their prototype ready, they connected with Shanghai Man Feng Asset Management Company, which paid $250,000 for funding in a pre-seed round.

What is TagDat?

TagDat is a Yelp alternative, but it is the most innovative and modern app for reviewing and search local businesses. It is incorporated with advanced concepts of machine learning, augmented data visualization, and Big Data.

TagDat has introduced a new revolutionary review system of tags and emojis.

Unlike Yelp, TagDat is more bright and playful, more like Foursquare city guide but without gamification.

The core difference between TagDat and Yelp is that TagDat relies on tags rather than text. It is more like the emojis equivalent of local business reviews that allows users to rate a place or business with at-a-glance descriptors.


Since pre-determined tags and emojis can be easily parsed than text, thereby it creates a powerful data-processing feature that allows to quickly find the most suitable local business based on your personal preferences.

With TagDat, you can skip reading millions of lengthy text reviews on your tiny phone screen, but can instantly know the businesses’ general ratings and its characteristics.

Unlike Haorizi, Li’s first app, TagDat will target a U.S. market to create interest where Yelp has gone dry. The beta version is already available in the Apple App Store, but it needs to fight an uphill battle to populate its database.

For the moment, TagDat will be relying on the combination of Google Places mixed with the data from its beta version testers.

Though Yelp is already a popular platform in this category. According to statistics from different open sources, Yelp gets over 142 million average monthly unique visitors.

Studies indicate that every new star in Yelp rating increases sales up to 5-9%, which is about $8 per year without ads. However, for any Entrepreneur, it’s essential to analyze the competitor such as business model, how users interact with their mobile app, what are the top business types regularly searched, and more.

The following graphic shows the top business types searched on Yelp.


However, you’ll also need to analyze the following critical Yelp app for Android components in order to build a successful local business reviews app like Yelp.

Authentication System

It’s no secret that personalization gives more trust to reviews and also gives comprehensive data about users. So, to cut the number of steps to get access to app experience, add the function of login with existing social networks.

Another option that must be provided is a business account creation. It means to ensure local businesses to verify their profiles, manage reputation, ratings, and reviews, also coordinate their advertising campaigns and costs.

Location-Based Functionality

This is also a fundamental feature for apps like Yelp mobile app.

Firstly, your app should be able to figure out the user’s location. Determine the right restaurant or shop, which is a harder problem than it looks. And, for searching businesses, mobile app developers can use Google Maps API which is available for Android, iOS, and web browsers.

Recommendations and Ratings

For this feature, it’s important to have a server that will store all the necessary information. Now, the secret of this feature is to reach the critical mass of users that will generate the content. This factor usually affects user retentions and acquisitions.

Push Notifications

To keep users updated about relevant information, you first need to figure out people’s preferences and their lifestyle.

For example, a user will be much more satisfied if you would send a review about a new restaurant for a vegan, or a club for those who prefer opera music.

Yelp alternative Foursquare solves this problem by taking past check-ins of users. The point here is not to lose a sight about users data.

Today, Apps like Yelp and Uber has revolutionized the whole service sector with the idea of providing on-demand services and it has significantly increased users expectations.

However, a good idea to build a local business reviews app like TagDat and Yelp is worth trying out. Though, don’t forget that an A-class mobile app development  agency play the key role in the future success of your app.

While TagDat founders took care of funding part by themselves. Buffy Li said, “We presented them with the idea, and we had a working prototype at that time, both my partner and I got to give the pitch. We divided it half and a half and I covered the technical design side and he covered more the marketing side.”

But, if you need help in this area, a right outsourcing partner can introduce you to the right investors to get you funded for future.

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This page was last edited on May 21st, 2020, at 3:47.


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