wellspherelogo.bmpWellsphere is a Web site worth looking at, if you’re into eating healthy and sports. It launches Monday morning.

We at VentureBeat are constantly surprised by how difficult it is to find yummy, healthy restaurants in say, Fremont, which is a large city in the Bay Area, filled with a relatively wealthy, diverse group of residents.

Wellsphere, based in San Francisco, lets you find such places • by letting like-minded people submit information about these places • tagging them with details, such as whether they’re vegetarian, or if not, what sort of vegetarian dishes are worth trying, or ways to ask the restaurant to serve the dish to make it healthier. It’s a social network, too, which lets you connect with other users, with the same interests.

There’s a lot going on at Wellsphere. Let’s say you just to find a gym with an outdoor pool, and which supplies towels, nearest to your location. You can specify all these details in a search on Wellsphere, and Wellsphere finds them. Once you choose a place, you can add more information about it -• such as pricing information, or ambience details — to inform others in the Wellsphere community.

If you’re into a particular exercise, say yoga, you can find tips about where to go to find classes, and see profiles of people who are doing them. Trainers and experts can use the site to post tips about these sports and other things. You can search for people, based on their activity, skill level, gender, age, and location.

Indeed, there’s so much going on, the main challenge is for users to get accustomed to the site’s various modes • the site revolves around people (profiles), places (gyms, restaurants), things (menu items, pricing information, etc). Its FAQ list is among the longer ones. You can leech on the site, by browsing and contributing nothing. But if you want to edit, i.e., submit information about a place, you have to register. The other challenge is for Wellsphere to add people to the network; It feels sort of empty, in contrast to all of the features it offers. But it is still early days; it has been in a closed testing for several weeks.

It is mind-boggling how many social network variations have emerged. This is the era of the “niche,” and we’re wondering how many of these slivers can be sliced off as separate communities before audiences disappear. This is a cool site. We can see ourselves using it, mainly as a search engine for places to eat, for exercise alternatives. Sure, we might use it to find a date, but what happens then? It’s not a real communications tool, so the challenge for Wellsphere is to find out how to keep people coming back. The site wants to make money from advertising. Founder Ron Gutman says he thinks Wellsphere can get high rates, because advertisers can target easily.

Wellsphere employs 14 people. It was founded by Gutman and Dave Kashen. And, as would befit such a site, they have a resident “chief medical information officer,” Geoffrey Rutledge, MD, PhD.



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