What problem are you solving?
Even though millions of people cook and eat together, or alone, but in close proximity to others, there is no dedicated service to making social dining easier and more enjoyable for cooks and consumers. As part of this there are a wide range of problems which we help to resolve, the following of which are only examples:
– “Coincidence of wants” problem around food – many, if not most, people prefer to eat/cook with others but don’t know when other people want to eat with them, or who shares their eating habits/interests (even within their wider social networks)
– Desire for self-quantification – If people cook or eat out, they want to track this. For example, many people like facebook/linkedin as they record aspects of their lives – many of us would also be interested in recording cooking behaviours and interests. Right now there is no ideal place to track/store such stuff, e.g, where it attractively curated and managed and attached to other content (e.g, a meal and so on)
– Relating to the above, many people have a desire for self improvement and would like get feedback on their recipes and cooking ,but cannot do so as there is no system in place.
– With shows like come dine with me, and master-chef, there is also some interest in having cooking competitions but no platform currently facilitates this
– Sorting out a bill after a large group meals is a massive recurring and yet unnecessary pain in the rear, and something which a prepayment/scheduling system can help to resolve (we are already doing this now with the food lovers society in UNSW, although not yet using collaboreat)
– If we know what people like, what they eat, and when they eat it, then it is possible to connect people over shared interests or habits, something which is not currently feasible. Considering that food consumption is a common interest and habit for virtually everyone, many of whom live/work/study very near to each other, this is an area which we think has a lot of potential.
– From a humanistic perspective, obesity and unhealthy eating habits are major social issues, as it social isolation. If we have a captive audience then we can nudge them toward behavior which are good for them and society as a whole.You can read about this aspect of things in our proposal here (back when we were called foodinger):
– There are various other examples we could give of problems we perceive, but these are some of the main ones.
What is your solution?
Collaboreat provides a range of functionalities tailored to solve the problems mentioned above, while also aiming to provided additional enhancements in future. While still in beta, the current uses of Collaboreat include creating events with deadlines and max attendee limits, supporting free peer to peer payment, and the ability to integrate with Facebook to easily broadcast events to friends and communities. The technology involves maps, payment, event organisation and community networks and integrates with GoogleMaps, Facebook, and Paypal API’s.
Why is this a great opportunity?
While technology is being used to facilitate virtually every niche of human interaction and activity (running apps, period tracking apps, social networking with people who have died etc.), little consideration has been paid to communal cooking and eating which is one of our most central social activities. Not only do millions of people do it daily, they also spend millions of dollars and invest a considerable amount of time and effort. It is therefore an ideal area to support with technological innovations. While a considerable amount of money is being invested in food startups at the moment, these are generally directed at using pre-vetted professional or serious chefs, and taking a relatively large portion of their profit. While no doubt this is a profitable area of the market, we think (i) there are many other forms of communal cooking (such as cooking, baking and eating out amongst students or employees) that these services ignore, and (ii) that the chefs using other services may be very happy to use collaboreat instead if we are not going to take 15%, and therefore will become our users once they realize they have an option. In summary we feel we have identified a great opportunity for entrepreneurship.
We target students, food enthusiasts, niche food lovers (e.g., vegan/vegetarians), and young tech savvy people living in urban communities.
How will you make money?
In general we draw from Wikipedia, Couchsurfing, etc in the sense that we do this out of our personal interest, therefore money making is a secondary (but still very important, particularly for growth) consideration. However, as Facebook has shown (or indeed other smaller, but still profitable social networks) you don’t need to directly monitise users to make money from them With that in mind, we will grow our user base (as the matures – we feel the market is not very mature just now) then monitise it e.g., by selling data, using a freemium model or making money from targeted advertising etc.
Joseph Gauthier, Peter Slattery, Hayden Smith, Chen Wang
I had the opportunity to swap emails with the founder Peter Slattery, I made some key points, here were his responses.
• Personal Security has to be top of the list
We are trying to make enjoying food with others easier and more enjoyable so that potentially could involve connecting people who may pose a risk to other. However, beyond having profiles and rating systems to ensure that people can verify who others are, and therefore make a wise decision about who to interact with, our platform arguably does not present any more risk (or even as much risk) to people as social networks or dating sites etc.
It may not be clear from the articles but we expect that most social cooking and eating will occur within pre-existing networks, or minor extensions of these network, where people already know each other (or at least one or more of the people attending). We would see this scenario rather than strangers meeting for meals as being the most common use-case for our system. Where strangers do meet or interact, we will provide guidelines and suggestions to try to ensure that they do so safely.
• Obviously you need User Rating for both the Cook and Diner
This is planned and in progress as part of the profile system. As part of this there will be a record of meals cooked and ratings received, in addition to information about the meals the person attended (we will not initially have ratings for attendees, but we will add this later). We plan for ratings to be optional for chefs as not all meals organised will be formal transactions; for example some will be between friends.
• Scheduling is important
We agree. Currently our system allows you to schedule a meal for a set date, and invite group invite potential guests with the consideration that only a decided number will be accepted to attend. Further, when the deadline for accepting new guests is reached, all parties receive an email informing them of all relevant information. To ensure people actually attend, we support and advocate prepayment for events (even if it is just a small sum it really increases the chance that people will keep their commitment). We support prepayment/payment on the website through integration with Paypal.
• Mobile App is essential
We have an iOS app in development at the moment and we are soon going to start on an android app (next week actually).
• Location based booking is important ie where can I eat within 1km
Currently our system is location based and focused on the “food map” which automatically shows you all events in your area. We don’t currently have open events just now (currently things are linked to facebook so you can only invite those you are facebook friends with) – it has been developed but not integrated onto the live site.
These guys are young and keen, I originally saw them as part of a Student Startup Competition last year, they have kept at it and polished the presentation and concept now have a working web app and are feeding people.
While they are feeding people now which is great, until they have a working mobile app Im not sure that this will take off in a meaningful way, I don’t believe the target market is at home on their PC looking for somewhere to eat, they are on their way home from a lecture or out seeing friends or travelling, that said if they can launch iOS and Android quickly then they may have a shot.
The most critical issue is the Double Sided Market Issue you wont get diners unless you have cooks. You wont get many cooks unless you have diners.
No cooks, no one eats. No one to eat and the cooks don’t get paid.
This is an inner city business model, you need critical mass of people on both sides. You have to start with 20-30 cooks, probably around a University or Tourist area with lots of both Uni students and travellers and single people who are likely to eat alone or eat out a lot.
Initially, get the 20-30 cooks fully booked for weeks at a time, then do the same in each city, there has to be enough diners to keep the cooks interested, without enough cooks, no diners.
The ideal cooks are probably older members of the population that are at home with lots of time on their hands and probably cook each night anyway. They have a few spare places at the table, they have the capability and they probably need the income.
Whats not clear is how you get the cooks to open the house up or even how you find them. Maybe you need to do a meet and greet at the local shopping centres when you are establishing local beachheads (ie a critical mass of cooks who can service their local area).
See who is buying all the produce, make them a special offer to hand match diners to their needs, or invite them to a session where you pay for their dinner at one of your best cooks places to help them understand the concept.
You will probably have to do a lot of manual hand holding on the cooks side for a while until everyone starts to understand how it works.
I don’t think you will have any shortage of diners if you have good cooks, this is the big challenge, I think you could take a page out of AirBnB’s early playbook by manually dealing with a lot of the hosts, maybe helping them with recipes they can easily turn out good food for multiple people (my gut feeling is that most of the cooks will be single people who are 30-70) at a set price so they actually make money, as well as photographing their apartment and teaching them how to setup a regular meal on your App.
Maybe you start with 10-20 hosts in one centre where you guarantee their payment for the night so no matter how many people turn up they don’t lose money.
You then put up posters in the local Universities and hostels, hand out brochures and get them to load the app and make a booking at one of the Cooks.
You and your mates go and eat at the spare spots, learn as much as you can out of both the diners and the cooks at each meal.
During your University Student Vacations you hop in a car or a plane and go to another city to get their Cooks and Diners signed up and working properly.
I this is the sort of business that is going to take 3-5 years to become an overnight success but the barriers to entry are very high so once you crack it at scale you could have a very valuable business, it might look like a tech driven solution and it sort of is, but you need people to actually do the hard yards recruiting the cooks and ensuring they get a great experience so that you always have someone ready to feed the diners.
If you can work out how to manage the Cook onboarding and activation process in a scalable way you have it made.
One last point, you need to simplify your elevator pitch, something like
Collaboreat helps hungry people find somewhere great to eat and helps people who like to cook to make money by sharing their table.
How AirBnB became a Billion Company – This link is a bit controversial, its his personal opinion about how they built such massive but definitely worth reading as it might give you some guerrilla marketing ideas (his story reminds me of the Balzac quote “Behind every great fortune is a great crime”)