Alexa Andrzejewski – Foodspotting 1 of 2

“Communicating a concrete vision is the most powerful thing a founder can do.” Foodspotting enables people to find and share food recommendations.

Matthew: Hi, this is Matthew Wise with FounderLY. We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies. So I am very excited today because I’m here with Alexa Andrzejewski, who is the founder and CEO of Foodspotting. Foodspotting is an app that enables people to find and share food recommendations. So with that said, Alexa, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.
Alexa: Hey everyone, I’m Alexa. I’m a user experience designer by background. I’m originally from the Midwest. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then went to Ohio State and actually studied design, which not a lot of people up here in the design world actually did, but I was kind of in that generation where design was becoming more popular, and I learned about user experience and user-centered design from the start. And I was always interested in the Web and in Internet and things like that growing up. I mean, I did websites for people out of high school, like a lot of other entrepreneurs seem to have done, but after college I really wanted to create user experiences, so my first jobs out of college were at user experience design consulting companies, where a lot of times you’d go out and help bigger companies go out and do everything from researching how people used their product, or might wanna use their product, and just understanding their needs and pay points, to coming up with interfaces that would start to solve some of those people’s problems. And I worked on projects for everything from, like, medical devices to, like, enterprise software interfaces and consumer software like MySpace and (unintelligible – 0:01:40.5) are some of the projects that I kind of tried to help them improve their user experience back in the day. My most recent job before Foodspotting was Adaptive Path. I was never really known as kind of one of the thought leaders in user experience design, I was just promoting this idea of user-centered thinking in everything you do, and so I’ve had a good experience there, but a lot of people from Adaptive Path actually ended up leaving and starting their own companies over time, and so I was really inspired by that and Adaptive Path encouraged kinda side projects and just doing… pursuing thongs outside of work. And so Foodspotting actually began as a side project while I was still at Adaptive Path, but eventually I kind of wanted to follow in the footsteps of these other user experience-minded founders and started my own company.
Matthew: Excellent. And so what is Foodspotting, who’s it for, what makes it unique, and why are you so passionate about it?
Alexa: So Foodspotting’s a website and mobile app for Apple, Android and all the others, for finding and sharing specific dishes that you recommend. And so I looked around and I kind of realized that there were a lot of apps for reviewing restaurants, but a lot of times you wanna find the best of a certain food, like you wanna find a really good cupcake, or you’re craving the best, you know, filet mignon or something like that, or truffle oil or truffle mac and cheese. And when you think of something like that, I realized that you couldn’t actually search for a specific dish using all these restaurant sites, and so Foodspotting’s about getting people to go out and catalog where to find all the best dishes and share where to find them, so that wherever you go you can turn on Foodspotting and see the best foods around you. And when I came up with this idea I realized that there were already all these people taking pictures of their food, and I realized, what if we could tap in to that energy to initially create this collection of good foods and where to find them, and so, you know, we started rewarding that behavior and giving it a name, food spotting, and an identity. We have these T-shirts that are “I (camera) food” that people are really, really into and just building community around sharing and now what’s really great is that even if you don’t take pictures of your food you can turn on Foodspotting and find something amazing that you wouldn’t have stumbled upon otherwise.
Matthew: What are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist in your space, and where do you see things developing in the future?
Alexa: So it’s been really interesting; when we first started Foodspotting about a year and a half ago, Foursquare was pretty new, Gowalla was pretty new, and no one was talking about all these location-based services, I mean it was just like, you know your phone has a GPS but location wasn’t really a buzzword. But we found ourselves kind of part of this trend of becoming… making recommendations increasingly local and relevant to me. So, you know, with Foursquare they’re showing you places your friends visit. With, you know, other services it’s all about starting to take a lot of information that’s out there and not just give you a phone book or a directory of it, but tailor it to you personally. And so I think there’s this trend of moving from, like, you know, search and this idea of listings and just looking up listings and looking up search results, to discovery, which is stumbling upon interesting things around you. And Foodspotting is in a really interesting place for that, because even the way the app’s designed it really facilitates this experience of stumbling upon things, because when you turn it on you’re looking at kind of a stream of stuff around you. It’s almost like having a lens that shows you stuff in the world and who recommended it and what it is and, you know, why you might like it. And, you know, it’s really this trend that even Google recognizes. They’ve talked about it, you know, that everybody’s kind of looking at this trend and moving from search to discovery. And it’s really interesting and we’re really excited that we found ourselves kind of swept into this thing, but we weren’t at the place where we were like, “Oh, we wanna build a location social mobile app,” you know, we just had a problem to solve and found ourselves kinda swept into this trend.
Matthew: Who are your cofounders, what qualities were you looking for when you were looking for cofounders, and how’d you know they’d be a good fit?
Alexa: So when I first came up with the idea for Foodspotting I was working in consulting, and I actually didn’t even know that people like me started companies for the most part. I mean, I knew some of the senior people had gone off and started companies but I was just a designer and I had this idea and I thought, you know, “Well, I can’t build it myself, so now what am I gonna do?” And that’s when I kind of realized that, you know, if I wanted this to be real and be what I had envisioned it to be, I needed to find people to help me make it real. And the first person I needed to find was a developer, and so I, you know, started looking around trying to figure out what the landscape was, you know, how do start-ups, you know. What’s the difference between a side project and a start-up, and, you know, how are all those engineers out there building these great things and how did they get started? You know, I just started asking everybody I knew, you know, trying to learn more about the scene and start-up world and everything. I joined Women 2.0. They had a jump-start your start-up program, which kind of taught me just the beginning 101 of start-up, and I learned how important it was to find a cofounder who shares your vision and, you know, has… that you… basically they said, you know, if you can’t find someone else who you can convince that this is a good idea enough to work on it with you, you know, how are you gonna convince anybody else. And so, you know, I realized how important that was and I started basically on this six-month quest to find a developer/cofounder for Foodspotting, and I kind of realized I didn’t actually know any other developers at that time, because I hadn’t really gotten out of my user experience bubble so, you know, I was kind of stretching. I was kind of attending developer meet-ups and iPhone Dev Camp and start-up weekends and all these different events to try to meet developers. So eventually I was just talking with people over happy hour and just sharing the idea with everybody I met, which I think was actually the number one key to finding a cofounder was just sharing the idea a lot instead of trying to, like, keep it under stealth. So, I’d heard somebody else talking about a food idea. I came up to him and I said, “Hey, I have a food app idea too, you know, it’s food spotting,” and I told him about it and this guy, Ted, loved the idea and he was just like, you know, “This could be a company. You can make this real.” And, you know, that was like this huge vote of confidence, I was like, “Really?” You know, “I could raise money for something like this?” (Laughs) And so I said, you know, tell me more, let’s meet up and, you know, maybe you can help me find out what I should be looking for in a developer/cofounder. And then, like, the more I started meeting with him to learn what to look for in a cofounder, the more I realized he would be the perfect cofounder. And we ended up joining up about, you know, two months later and launched the thing, you know, in like a month, because I’d been able to put so much design thought into it before I met him. And a little bit later we realized that we needed one other kind of person for the company, and that was someone who was like a rainmaker; someone to kinda just create this aura around Foodspotting. We talked to partners and we talked to people that were just totally excited about Foodspotting, and that’s why we’re so excited about when we met Soraya, who actually reached out to us through a mutual friend and was interested in advising start-ups on marketing. She was at the New York Times at the time, and, you know, kind of helping them with social media, and we reached out to her and said, you know, “Hey, we’re looking for someone who can connect us to the New York world, the media scene, the Travel Channel, the Food Network, all these food players in the food space, you know. Can you help us do that?” And she started doing it as an advisor and eventually doing it as a cofounder.
Matthew: From idea to product launch how long did it take, and when did you guys actually launch?
Alexa: So I had the idea probably two years ago in January 2009, I guess, and it was kind of… I also had a different idea at the time, but from when I actually, you know, really had the idea for Foodspotting and we started up was like August of that year. And then it took me about three or four months to find my cofounder, Ted. But then once I did, because I’d had a chance to do a lot of refinement and research, design prompts for it, and just testing the idea with people all through the summer, by the time I met Ted we could really hit the ground running. And we launched really quickly, November 2009, the website, and then in March of 2010 we launched the iPhone app, so, you know, we were able to really move quickly on the first versions of everything, but there’s always things that really are still evolving.
Matthew: Are there any unique metrics or social proof about Foodspotting that you’d like to share with our audience?
Alexa: Yeah, so since we launched the iPhone app in March 2009 we’ve already (unintelligible – 0:09:59.4) 850,000 app users for the iPhone. We just launched Android this March and that’s already over 60,000 users. So, you know, we’re getting close to a million app users and we’re seeing, you know, half a million launches every month and we’re seeing also over 500,000 foods have been spotted around the world, which is really amazing. And I think the most amazing thing is kind of the anecdotal things, like actually hearing from people saying, you know, “I just tried the greatest dish because of Foodspotting.” Or, “I was, you know, walking through New York craving an interesting cocktail, I turned it on and I discovered this place that’s specialized in cocktails for 100 years.” You know, it’s just really cool to hear people stumbling upon and discovering new experiences because of Foodspotting, ’cause that’s really what we wanna do is kinda just open up people’s minds kind of to new experiences and to try new things.


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