At the end of last year a group of friends came together to create a web service we all wanted to use called Eat.ly – a quick way to track and share food photos on the web via email.
The idea was born based on the observation that most people can’t remember what they had for lunch two days ago. However, stopping to take a photo (and optionally sharing it publicly) adds both accountability and an element of fun.
…Feel free to read the team and product backstory below, or, skip down to the meat of this article and help us figure out what to do next….
The four of us (Sam Huleatt, Mike Singleton, Eric Friedman (me), and Sam Brown) met through a mutual friend. Each operating in a different part of the NYC tech community we became fast friends and even though Sam Brown was in the UK, we worked well together. Eat.ly was Sam H’s “idea” and he provided the vision, while I provided a bunch of the business stuff. We owe the creation of the project into a reality and usable product to Mike S. and Sam B. whose design and coding skills. I cannot express enough thanks to them for the hard work they put into this project.
The service took off well, and it seems well timed with a plethora of other similar services launched around the same time; Foodspotting, Fidd.me, Grub.it, and more.
With little promotion and strong hooks into other web services like Twitter and Facebook to share meal photos we were off and running.
1. We are bootstrapped in the true sense of the word – $0.00 funding and running as bare bones as possible.
2. We do not have an app to speak of (no real API either which is a basic requirement)
3. Everyone is in “product” though we all have individual expertise – see team page.
4. We are all working fulltime+ jobs and are not pursuing this as a major project at this time
So how are we doing? Pretty well, we think.
- Users: <5,000
- Images: Almost 10,000
- Webhooks with Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare
- The service has not been growing as we’d hoped. Our main issue seems to be that unlike “check-ins” taking photos of one’s food is not as sticky (this despite clear evidence that people eat better while regularly taking photos of their meals)
- A large percentage of users that signup fail to submit a single photo
- The number one requested feature by far is an iPhone app.
- Few people visit the actual website, despite a plethora of food porn. Few people add additional data (calories, etc)
Email: We send out a weekly email to users showing a beautiful roundup of their usage, most interesting photos (by views!) and other friend stats.
Under the hood:
Ruby on Rails
Hosted at Slicehost $35.00/month
Sendgrid (emails) $9.99/month
Finally, the point of this article: help us decide what to do next! Pivot our startup!
We have all been helped, inspired, motivated, and energized by the community at Hacker News and we wanted to ask you for some advice. While many folks post about “HN: checkout my startup” we thought we would ask HN to help pivot our startup.
We are basically open sourcing our next move and want the wisdom of the crowd to help us decide where to take this project.
We’ve all done startups before and are somewhat flummoxed by what we see as a good idea, but not getting the type of traction it should. So — should we continue on course? Shut it down? Build feature X? what do you think? People are using the product, and we see activity across services – but its not hockey stick growth. Right now, things stand as a verticalized Tumblr/Posterous or a very specific niche Twitter picture service.
Some ideas we have explored:
White labeling the service: Creating other niche verticals taking on a StackOverflow or StackExchange type of model.
Creating destination content: By having a compelling offering to come back such as recipes, calorie count other nutrition info, or picture ratings.
An idea we labeled “hunch for food”: ability to rate/rank food photos of others to come to conclusions based on voting.
Doubling down on the original idea + game mechanics + iPhone app: Adding some game mechanics to try and increase usage and retention
A few more…but nothing stuck!
So, we would love to hear from you — no idea is too crazy! We have a talented team and we’re looking to make a successful product. Pivot my startup!
What do you think?