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Kings Of The City

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Kings of the City

Vindigo's software turns handheld devices into urban guides for entertainment junkies

In 1997, when Irish-born Jason Devitt moved from London to New York, he couldn't wait to feel like a native Manhattanite. "I wanted to be the one who always knows the best places to go," he says. So when Devitt, 31, and fellow expatriate David Joerg, 27, launched their own business last year, the aim was "to literally put the city in the palm of your hand."

That's what they've done with Vindigo. A play on the Latin word vintico ("to liberate"), Vindigo is a Web-based software application that transforms a handheld device like a PalmPilot into a portable city guide, with information on restaurants, movies, nightlife, and shopping. It's always up-to-date because every time users synchronize their handheld personal digital assistants, they automatically download data for free from the company's Web site. So, say you're on the corner of 14th and Sixth, craving pasta. Enter your location into your PDA, select Italian, and Vindigo presents a list of trattorias, with directions and brief reviews.

Spending next to nothing on marketing, the ad-supported service--which is available free of charge in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington--has attracted some 100,000 users, and 2,000 more are signing on every day. Even business analysts have a hard time staying objective. "I absolutely love it," says Joe Laszlo, senior analyst with Jupiter Communications. "It's essential."

Devitt and Joerg met in the London office of investment bank D.E. Shaw & Co. and often talked about starting a company. After transferring to New York, they made their move. Noting the popularity of PalmPilots, Devitt figured the devices were perfect for a city guide. Their banking connections helped them raise nearly $10 million in venture capital before launching in March. Vindigo has since grown to 35 employees (Devitt refuses to disclose revenues) and plans to expand to five more cities. That leaves Devitt little time to actually use the service. Not that it bothers him. For now, Devitt is happy to focus on liberating others. For more profiles of leading entrepreneurs, click Online Extras at frontier.businessweek.comBy Naween A. Mangi

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