Foodspotting CEO: It’s About Discovery, Not Food Porn

3/6/12Follow @xconomy

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fleshing out prototypes. Early versions looked like a typical listings site, but she kept redesigning it until it became a visual experience much more like a bakery window.

“I was learning startup 101 at the time,” she says. “But we really hit the ground running.”

In January of last year, Foodspotting raised $3 million in series A funding, with BlueRun Ventures as the lead investor. Two years after its founding, the company has grown to an office of 10, the biggest users have been promoted to “superspotters,” and the team has started to flesh out its business model.

Right now, they are working to find ways to help direct traffic towards local restaurants while avoiding the daily deal coupon audience. Andrezewski says the company wants to give restaurants a way to reach people who really care about food, as opposed to people who really cares about coupons. They have already partnered with Scoutmob to provide “specials” to their users, but instead of heavily discounted deals that users can buy, these are straight-up coupons that offer deals like 30 percent off a key lime cupcake, or 20 percent off pancakes. Scoutmob takes care of the sales and infrastructure, and when a special is redeemed, the deals site gets a commission and Foodspotting gets a piece of it.

They’re also working to highlight brands related to food to help them get discovered, the kind of companies that “might want to reach the relatively affluent dining out crowd.” Andrzejewski says it’s important for Foodspotting not to do straight advertising. Instead the company is working to create a way for brands to participate, a strategy it plans to highlight at the upcoming South by Southwest Interactive festival. Over the holidays, for example, they hid golden tickets in Foodspotting that users could find to win anything from a camera to movie tickets to Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

The founders have toyed with the idea of moving beyond food to spotting other cool things, like fun places to go in a given city. One of Andrzjewski’s favorite apps, called Nextstop, did something similar, but was bought by Facebook. Other apps, like Snapette, have a Foodspotting-like function in the fashion space. The company has gone so far as to purchase domain names like goodspotting.com (sadly, spotspotting.com was already taken by a “squatter”), but for now Andrzejewski plans to stick with food. “Our focus right now is being successful in food first,” she says. “Part of the challenge is that our whole team loves food. We don’t understand fashion.”

In February, the company released version 3.0 of its app, which has been tweaked to make it easier for users to quickly flip through different dishes, highlight the ones they’re interested in, and hide ones that they aren’t.

The company also puts a big focus on building community, dedicating half of their team to the endeavor. Andrzejewski believes that the sense of community that foodspotters share really differentiates the company from competitors like Forkly.

“We get lots of downloads in bursts, but what’s important to us is people who come back and identify with being a foodspotter. That can never grow quickly enough.”

(Photo by Kevin Warnock.)

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