Twizoo co-founder Madeline Parra talks about her career in technology and why she swapped storm chasing for restaurants
Madeline Parra is the co-founder of restaurant recommendation app Twizoo. When she was younger she wanted to be a storm chaser but has chosen for a slightly more sedate life in tech. She only took her first computer science course ten years ago and has been in IT for just six years. Just don’t contact her on LinkedIn, she might delete it.
Tell us about your company, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?
Twizoo is an app which makes restaurant recommendations near you – but unlike traditional apps from online review websites such as the likes of Yelp or TripAdvisor, it does not rely on building up a bank of online reviews. Instead, our algorithm analyses real-time Twitter data on factors such as location, sentiment, credibility and context to provide highly relevant recommendations.
It not only mitigates the problem of outdated or fake reviews, but Twizoo is far more cost effective than building a community and encouraging that to leave reviews which has become a huge cost to companies.
According to Yelp’s annual report, they spent over £8 million on headcount, including employing community managers and supporting staff to encourage visitors to leave reviews – yet less than four percent of visitors actually do. Only in October last year, Amazon announced that it was taking legal action at over 1,000 people offering to write fake reviews for a fee. What we have created with Twizoo, is an app that can fix these problems and disrupt this industry.
I’ve been in IT for about six years. Before founding Twizoo, I started out in the IT department of GlaxoSmithKline before transitioning to a team which focussed on a more externally facing digital strategy.
What has been your favourite project so far?
Twizoo of course! But within the app my favourite project has been to determine how to algorithmically detect restaurants and bars from the Twitter stream.
What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
I was just starting to learn back then – I took my first computer science class in 2006. I also remember how game-changing Facebook was – at the time it was only open to select colleges and universities, but you could already see the massive impact the product was going to have on the world.
What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
I would love to own a self-driving car!
Who’s your tech hero?
Paul Graham, the computer programmer
Who’s your tech villain?
What’s your favourite technology ever made?
Definitely the iPhone.
What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
From my experience in a start-up it’s either hiring the right people, or staying relevant. The tech sector is not only fast-paced, but it is becoming increasingly cut-throat.
Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
Probably Foursquare. They’ve persevered through tough times and have built some fantastic technology along the way.
To Cloud or not to Cloud?
What did you want to be when you were a child?
A storm chaser in the U.S. – nothing sounds more thrilling than chasing tornados!