You know you want to try new food, but where do you start? The choices can be overwhelming. Yelp can give you ideas, but you’ll need to sort through annoying reviews and bad pictures. Instagram will show you nice pictures but not tell you if it’s filtered or how it tastes; just looks alone. Where should you turn? Wine n Dine. This food discovery platform that allows you to explore pictures of actual dishes people are eating around you, making food discovery easy and fun. Simply scroll through and as your mouth begins to salivate over enticing items, you can save them for later. Hoping to expand your palate, the company just raised a $2.5M seed round.
AlleyWatch chatted with cofounders Adam Cooper and Josh Stern about the young startup and its first round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a $2.5M seed round led by Jordache Ventures, The Chetrit Group and Carmelo Anthony’s fund Melo7 Tech Partners.
Tell us about your product or service.
We’re a dish and restaurant social discovery tool. The product is super simple. Our users post recommendations (it’s overwhelmingly positive) of dishes and restaurants they love. When people see something they like they save it to their ‘wanna try’ section and then go to the spots to try food they’ve discovered. It all wraps up into our ‘explore’ section, which algorithmically takes the pulse of a city. We have a really unique take on menus and everything is organized visually and by popularity — we’re the only player doing this in the space.
What inspired you to start the company?
Josh and I have been friends forever. Our friends seemed pretty frustrated by Yelp and were constantly taking screenshots and sharing photos of food from Instagram. So we built something simple and shared it with our friends to help solve the problem. At the time I was working in venture debt with tech companies and Josh was working on a concierge app called I Know The Chef. Our friends loved what we did and started sharing it with their friends, so we took the leap!
How is it different?
Our big differentiator is being dish centric. We’re the only app that gathers very granular dish data and we lead people to discover new spots not by the restaurants themselves, but by the awesome food they serve. We’re also super positive, as over 90% of our posts are positive. We’re recommendation based, not review, and it’s proven to be a valuable and unique differentiator for our community.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Everybody loves food and everyone eats. This year, restaurants will bring in over $700B in revenue and we want to position ourselves at the forefront of discovery. Additionally, our dish data is unique and valuable and we’re very confident that the multi-billion dollar publishing industry will take notice.
What’s your business model?
We’re currently pre-revenue, but plan to monetize our dish data, as well as position ourselves as a valuable advertising platform.
What are customers saying thus far?
Our beta users absolutely love the app and they’re sharing it with friends at an incredible rate…our growth thus far has been completely word of mouth. Users constantly use the ‘wanna try’ feature and love being able to search by specific dishes. A new feature, our popularity based menus, are very quickly becoming a must look when users sit down at restaurants.
What was the funding process like?
We learned a ton through our initial raise, it was a very fun and exciting team. At the time it was only Josh and I, but people were coming in the door fast. Investors were keen on the potential market size and the uniqueness of the dish centric product. We got lucky and linked up with people who really believed in not only us, but the product as well.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
To be honest, we got hot quickly and the fundraising process was a breeze, though we know that’s not always the case. Having launched our first company, getting organized from a legal perspective was hard, but we managed!
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Early traction and huge potential. A lot of players, some massive, are in the space, but our unique data driven approach to the dish was a big winner.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re totally focused on post growth. The more posts, the easier it is for us to make precise recommendations and leverage our data. We’ve set goals to add millions and million of posts by the end of this year. We want to be the index for image driven menus across the internet, so this is key. On the user front, we want multiply, but maintain our high engagement and retention. To us, a highly engaged healthy user base is far more valuable than a massive MAU number that churns out over time. We’ll continue to focus on building a great product, but the only way to do that is to continue adding smart and hardworking people to our team.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Work as hard as you possibly can to get to product market fit and don’t be distracted by anything else. If you can solve a real problem, engaged users will come and smart money will follow.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Team, team, team. Building a great team will lead to a great product and success will follow. We’re extremely focused on team building, plus being smart with our funding. We’re rapidly growing in cities around the world, so focusing on where we can generate quality and sustained users is imperative to us. Adding a precise and relevant recommendation engine is a huge focus for us on the product front.
What’s your favorite rooftop bar in NYC to unwind?
We actually love hanging out at The Whitney Museum Rooftop. It’s got incredible views and truly let’s us unwind. You can find us there pretty frequently. It’s nice to get distracted by the incredible art — it inspires us to build.