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Seattle-based Vermouth app thinks your friends give the best reviews

Let’s say you want to try out a new restaurant, but you don’t know if it’s any good. What if you just moved to the area and you need to find a primary care doctor? What about that new gallery that just opened up? If you’re like many people, Yelp is the website of choice.

But a Seattle startup company called Vermouth that just launched this past summer, thinks they’ve found a better way.

“I’ve always been a fan of Yelp,” said Vermouth founder Jamien McCullum. “I think transparency is powerful. I’d like to think of Vermouth as the next evolution.”

McCullum began Vermouth about a year ago with the intention of finding a way where people can get trustworthy reviews. We interviewed McCullum at Vermouth’s Pioneer Square office about the app and why the name.

“The Latin root ‘ver’ means truth, like veritas. Combine that with mouth, and you get vermouth or true word of mouth. Or essentially unlocking word of mouth,” McCullum explained.

Once you download the app, it pulls together your social media networks and lets you share, or pin, your favorite places. Vermouth allows you to pin a favorite restaurant, businesses, even a favorite hiking spot.

“For example, at my favorite coffee shop, I want to know when they’re doing something special. At my favorite restaurant, I want to know when they’re having a wine event. Or at my favorite music venues, I want to know when there are certain acts that come in that I’m interested in,” he said.

McCullum said while Yelp has a purpose, the problem was that reviews were from people you don’t typically know.

“Businesses are paying for that top billing, that top spot,” said McCullum. “It’s not necessarily the best restaurant or the best doctor. It’s often times the one that spends the most money for that spot.”

Vermouth user Jonna Bell has used the app since it launched and says it’s become an invaluable tool.

“I’m not going to go to a city and ask my friends, where should I not go,” said Bell. “I’m going to ask them for the places that I must get dinner, two galleries that I need to see and three shops that I have to swing by.”

Since Vermouth’s launch this summer, it has grown to more than 10,000 users. Even Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird liked it so much, she became part of the company.

“She downloaded Vermouth when we first announced the app in June,” said McCullum. “I reached out to her personally and said ‘Sue we’d love to have you involved in Vermouth’.  Since then, she’s become one of our biggest ambassadors.”

McCullum says he plans to expand Vermouth to other cities soon.

“We’re just getting started, we’ve got a long ways to go,” said McCullum.

This is the second startup for McCullum started.

His first app was called “Doctor Base” which allowed better and more efficient communication between doctors and patients. He said it’s similar to ‘MyChart’, which is used by many medical facilities.

It was sold to a bay area company.

McCullum is a graduate of Mercer Island high school and former wide receiver for Stanford University.