Ousted Groupon founder Andrew Mason, now 34, has relocated to San Francisco, lost 30 pounds, and since last fall he's been working on a new venture: Detour. It's a mobile app, currently in beta testing, that provides cool-sounding audio tours of San Francisco that The Verge has already compared to "a particularly good episode of This American Life."

Mason founded Detour with Yishai Lerner, Groupon's former vice president of mobile engineering, and as he told the Chron, he was inspired to create the app after doing an audio tour of some ruins in Rome, with his wife, sharing one pair of earbuds. Detour has the added benefit of being GPS-enabled, so you can follow your own path through a neighborhood and suddenly someone could chime in to tell you what's right around the corner.

The unique part about Detour sounds like it's more of an intimate, well-informed look at a neighborhood, almost like when Amelie leads the blind man around her own neighborhood pointing out the sights and smells, in Amelie. For the S.F. tours Mason has created so far, he has Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow, for instance, talking about his favorite Tenderloin haunts, and radio host Ninna Gaensler-Debs giving her tour of North Beach and Chinatown, complete with a jazz soundtrack and interviews with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other living members of the Beat Generation.

Mason describes it to TechCrunch as "more like a location-based documentary" than a typical audio tour.

Eventually, there will be the ability to upload your own personal tours, which will be vetted and reviewed by users, and the tours will cost $5 or $10 to download, with a portion of that going to the contributor. You can start making pitches now, right here.

As The Verge mentions:

Mason being Mason, Detour can also get weird. One of the tours available at launch is a cupcake tour of the tony Marina District narrated by "philosopher Ulrich Fürst," who in reality is a friend of Mason’s doing a dead-on impression of the filmmaker Werner Herzog. "While you feast on delicious local pastries, Ulrich questions the metanarrative scaffolding that supports your sensorial enjoyment," reads the description, which describes the neighborhood as a place "where capitalism is fueled through the parasitic symbiosis of indulgence and restraint."

The Chron quotes Mason, regarding his recent past, saying that Groupon's 2011 IPO was "a hazing process for introducing you to the club of corporate douchery."

It should be noted that Mason hardly needs the money from this new venture: He was worth $400 million by the time he left Groupon in 2013. The Chron also immediately undercut this Detour venture in a way, via the following, in the introductory paragraphs of their piece:

"People have an enormous hunger to have really compelling experiences in their cities," Mason says. Then a seagull poops on his head.

For anyone looking to describe Mason's last few years, the moment offers an irresistible opportunity for metaphor.


[The Verge]