'Apprentice' runner-up launches mapping site in L.A.
Don't you just hate it when your online map doesn't tell you what you need to know? Like when Mapquest sends you down a dark alleyway, or when Google sends you on four freeways when you really needed just one?
Many online map services seek to fix these problems by helping you to see where your friends are on maps and adding Twitter feeds to their pages. On Wednesday, Zoodango.com is launching service for Los Angeles that lets you see "every single restaurant, bar, club and lifestyle-oriented venue" on the map, founder James Sun said. Sun's claim to fame? He came in second on the sixth season of "The Apprentice," the Donald Trump show in which squeaky clean businesspeople aspire to be his assistant.
Not that the association has helped Sun much.
Potential investors remembered him as "the Apprentice guy." "It opened the door to get in front of people I wouldn't have otherwise," he said. "But you still have to have a good product."
Now he has funding from some Seattle angels. Not bad for a guy who spontaneously decided to audition for the show when he was walking past lines of men in suits waiting for their turn at the mall.
Zoodango has launched already in Seattle; San Francisco; Spokane, Wash.; and Portland, Ore. It's is slowly snaking its way down the coast. Sun says it uses ...
... a "back-end system" to get all the bars, restaurants and entertainment venues in a particular city onto one map. Eventually, online publishers will license the technology and put the map on their websites, he says. Advertisers will be able to buy addresses and put their brands there. And Web surfers can see all the entertainment in a neighborhood with one click, rather than the several it might take on a site such as Yelp.
Sun's takeaways from "The Apprentice":
First, L.A. is a big city. Maps help.
Second, small groups "can do a tremendous amount of work in a small time." He has only 11 employees.
And third, it's important to know your brand, as Trump told him many times.
We can think of a fourth that he didn't name, which is to stay solvent: Trump Resorts, the casino group that bears his name, today filed for bankruptcy protection -- for the third time.
It's a good time to be getting into local search and mapping, said Erron Silverstein, chief executive of Burbank company YellowBot, which is kind of a Yelp meets CitySearch. In this economy, small businesses are pulling their ad dollars from print and radio and going online.
Business is never easy, as even Trump could tell you. Silverstein says no matter how good your product is, you need a good sales team.
Still, Sun sold himself onto "The Apprentice," then created soap commercials and won a task in which he had to sell tickets to Universal Studios. How hard can it be?
-- Alana Semuels