Center-stage startups may soon become gamechangers, but their journey may already contain a valuable lesson for us all.
Dishare is a personalized, culinary health-sensitive platform based on social networks, crowdsourcing, and AI that leads users to better culinary choices. Startup Cofounder, CEO Bar Reuven, CTO Pavel Kirillov, and Head of Product, Andrew Amann explain:
‘We describe ourselves as the Spotify of food. We are a platform that aims to redefine culinary decision-making and expose users to new experiences based on their ‘foodprint.’״
Where did the idea come from?
“We love food, but like most people, we are limited in the choices we can make. With dietary restrictions and a specific (sometimes deemed picky) palate, its often critical to make an accurate dish selection. A few years ago, when CEO Bar Reuven traveled to Asia with his wife, who is a vegetarian, it was time-consuming to search for restaurants that could serve dishes with no beef or pork in them. He realized that existing platforms like Google Maps, Yelp, Happy Cow and others were not personalized enough, and thought they didn’t provide a sufficient solution.”
The company was established in March 2020, just when COVID hit in Israel, and it quickly moved its operations to NYC. They began with 2 employees and now have 10 people in-house. These days they are working to get their first big capital raise.
What were the first steps you took to realize your idea?
“We began with what turned out to be the core base of our platform. We’ve conducted the most comprehensive and prolonged market research . We have studied over 300 companies, including their work and operations and were able to learn from each, while focusing on the solutions that were still needed.”
The founders found that 440M food photos are published on Instagram every year. They also realized that 132 hours is the average time that American couple spend deciding what to eat each year. Their research showed that 69% of these couples don’t like to go to the same regular restaurant and are often interested in trying new places and different types of food. Interestingly, 85% of diners check online menus, and 50% exit the sites due to lack of information. 45% of diners have specific dietary needs, and that trend is growing.
“We understand how challenging it is today for people to navigate the dining world and keep true to their diet. Vegans, vegetarians and people who follow Ketogenic diets, to name a few, can understand the challenges of ensuring that food ingredients and dining choices reflect their diets.”
What would you say is your wow factor?
“The ability to create and define an individual ‘foodprint’ for a user, and to be able to create the relevant matches with all the dishes and the smart menus that we create in the US. A smart menu means a nutrition facts dictionary for every dish in every menu.”
With so many choices around, it is indeed a navigating challenge. The famous psychologist Barry Schwarz calls it the Paradox of Choice, when we have too many options to choose from, the satisfaction rate will always decrease. The platform redefines the way people choose what and where to eat, exposes them to new experiences based on their ‘footprint,’ and helps them learn about healthy and sustainable food.
What were the game changers along the way?
“The best decision we took was to stop our operations in Israel, to give up on partnerships, customers, and subscribers, and to relocate to the US in order to stay close to our target market. The subscription box model that creates personalized surprise food deliveries turned out to be a very smart move as well, because of the social network effects and the interactions around food. We also made sure to develop a platform that would be as personalized as possible, which makes all the difference to our clients; there is no room for mistakes when making healthy food choices.”
What is your competitive edge?
“We have an exclusive service that leaves no room for error. To experience fully the concept of getting the best food without taking part in the search process, we came up with the idea of a subscription for surprise personalized food deliveries. Customers just need to pick the time and location, and our algorithm will choose the dish that matches their ’foodprint.’’’
What mistakes would you say you’ve made along the way?
“Many, actually, but only one of them turned out to be a major one: we didn’t raise enough money on time and now the market is tough and it’s quite the challenge to raise capital”.
What was your best decision?
“To make an A-Z POC with paying users and to operate it on our own; to talk with the customers, and to learn from them, their pain points, etc.”
What did you not know about the market or about operating a startup that you can now teach others?
“To create collaborations and to create win-win situations. To manage on a bootstrap budget, with few resources, and to find ways to economize, such as sponsorships or interns, for example. “
Marketing strategy: how did you pave the path to your clients?
We are focusing on two groups: Individuals with food limitations (diets, allergies,etc) and ‘foodies.’The first group we target through Facebook groups and the second through their jobs and company. For example, we sell subscriptions to company X as a gift to their employees for a specific holiday or event, then their employees get the credit.”
How significant was this element in your overall strategy and budget?
“In our case, the number is very close to zero, unfortunately, because we just haven’t had enough yet to spend on these initiatives.”
Where will you be in a year from now?
“10,000 paying users, 4-5 million dollars in funding.”
What will the industry look like 5/10 years from now?
“It will focus on personalization. That’s what it’ll all be about. Users will have their Dishare, and their ‘foodprint’ with which they will be able to log in to every food related platform (as people do today with FB, Google ID, Apple ID etc.) and enjoy the ultimate personalized dining experience.”