I met Iulian and Vlad almost a year ago, when they came at our doorstep with an idea of an application dedicated to mobile platforms, called Foody. Iulian brought in his experience in the HORECA domain, Vlad, his technical expertise and Gemini Solutions Foundry the knowledge acquired during the 10 years of working with startups. So, we sat down at the table and started to re-turn the idea on all sides and polish it in order to define an MVP as good as possible, which would later be released on the market.
A MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a product that contains a minimal set of key features which allow it to be released on the market in the shortest period of time possible, on minimum effort and costs. Following the feedback received, there will be a new iteration, refining the product according to the requirements of the market, thus avoiding the scenario when “the perfect product that no one is using” is developed. Another definition would be: “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
For Foody, the MVP looked like this:
At the moment, the Made by Apes team (Foody is a product of the Made by Apes team) was joined with fresh forces by Edmond and Cristian. Edmond has a background of over 12 years of experience in sales in the HORECA area, and Cristian comes with the experience of a successful business on the Romanian market in the domain of fuels, which has allowed them to continue the project on their own resources. With their help, Foody has added more than 100 restaurants in Bucharest and has gathered over 2500 users who make reservations on daily bases through the application. Their path does not end here, but Iulian will tell us more about that.
[Radu Popovici] Iulian, what does Foody actually mean?
[Iulian Geana] Foody is the first client retention platform in Romania, dedicated to restaurants, pubs and cafés, meant to facilitate people’s access to their retention programs (discounts, special menus, vip rewards, etc.), through a mobile application. Moreover, Foody is the application dedicated to all the people who wish to eat out or those who travel and need a guide which can help them choose a restaurant in other cities or other countries. We want Foody to become your best friend when eating out, a friend that can reward you anytime you go out.
Where has this idea come from?
[Iulian] The idea that gave birth to Foody was a rather simple one. Following a discussion with Vlad, we realized that, even though he is from Bucharest and I moved to the capital more than 10 years ago and we eat out quite often, we knew but 10-15 restaurants and a few shaorma places. And thus, our journey has begun… The first customer retention platform: we put the ideas down on paper and we realized we could build a bridge between customers and restaurants; the current relation is a rather cold one, not because of the quality of the products (as one can eat very well in many places), but due to the services and lack of rewarding the people who are loyal to a brand.
Are the restaurants open to the offered solution?
[Iulian] Restaurants are beginning to understand more and more the importance of retaining EACH customer that comes by different methods to offer people an extra reason to come back and turn them into ambassadors of their brand. Those who were the first to understand this already have visible results. Restaurants can use Foody as a platform for retaining their already loyal customers and at the same time for attracting new clients. Unlike other promoting channels, the results that come through Foody are 100% counted, as compared to a banner or advertisement in a publication, where the return is not something exact, but a mere relation. And the advantages of an application such as Foody vs. “An application specific to a single restaurant” are obvious: the number of potential customers you are addressing can be hundreds or even thousands of times higher, the costs are ten times smaller and the list goes on.
For a business such as yours, the first steps are usually the most difficult. It is difficult to attract users on the platform if you don’t have many things to offer, and it is difficult to attract restaurants if you don’t have many users. How did you overcome this deadlock?
[Iulian] I think the most important things are the performance, the speed of response and the capacity to swivel according to the results. Sometimes, however, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line, but a curved line which by-passes the obstacles and helps you reach your goal. The steps were pretty obvious for us: we build the platform; we go to restaurants to register them in Foody in order to have a minimum base of locations and offers to make it interesting for the users and then, we start presenting it to the clients. The idea was quite well received by the restaurants, with a conversion rate of over 95%. Our experience in the HORECA industry has helped us a lot here. Moreover, the fact that we also have a niche application, and not something general, helps us a lot to keep our focus on what we are doing.
I can see that on Play Store you have some negative ratings. What has happened?
[Iulian] Competition. It is an extraordinary thing that we also get negative ratings, since they show us where we are wrong and they help us a lot to increase the quality of our product. I believe that an application having 100% 5 star ratings is as real as Romania having streets without any pot holes. Coming back to what happened to us, we admit the fault is ours, since, one way or another, several persons outside Bucharest found out about the application, installed it and, obviously, had an unpleasant experience seeing that the nearest restaurant was hundreds of km away from them. We are working on a plan to extend Foody to all the big cities of Romania. But first we wish to establish a close relation with the users in Bucharest and the local restaurants, and afterwards we are going to proceed with the extension.
How soon will we see Foody in other cities of our country?
[Iulian] Within the next 6 months we believe we will be able to start in cities such as: Constanta, Cluj, Timisoara, Sibiu, Brasov, Iasi. It depends a lot on the results and fine-tuning in Bucharest. We very much wish to come up with a solution for the entire country. Especially given the fact that we are nationalists and we love Romania!
What about in other countries?
[Iulian] We wish Foody would help users find restaurants in the entire world in the future and have access to all the benefits offered by them. However, in order to do this, we need an investor.
Besides the new locations, what should we expect from Foody in the near future?
[Iulian] Bonuses and a game full of surprises, next to a new concept which will make you go out for an extraordinary and accessible culinary experience.
Do you consider the collaboration with Gemini Solutions Foundry to be useful?
[Iulian] The encounter with Gemini Solutions Foundry has represented a key moment for us. The help and motivation you offered have helped us go on, when we were hit by despair we all feel when we start building something new and we face the first difficult problems that seem to have no immediate solutions. Your optimism and professionalism have contributed quite a lot to the development of Foody and we hope they will do that in the future, too.
So, would you recommend young entrepreneurs to contact us?
[Iulian] Without some help such as that offered by GSF, I believe the chances for a startup to grind to a halt are maximal. And we consider ourselves rather experienced in the industry we have chosen. Personally, I sincerely recommend to any entrepreneur who is at the beginning of their journey to collaborate with your company, since the help you can provide is priceless for a newbie. Starting from the technical expertise, code analysis, the Legal and Finance advice, design and user experience are advantages that GSF brings along, offering real chances of success to any startup. And the contacts on the Venture Capital side represent a “gold-mine” for any entrepreneur. If we have stirred your curiosity, you can download the Foody application from the Made by Apes, and if you wish to see your favorite restaurant on the platform as soon as possible, please send an email specifying this thing.
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