Today Foodspotting announced that it had reached 1 million downloads, and that its launched a new version of its iPhone application. The team also put together a really nice video to mark the occassion, which I recommend.
As I am relaunching my blogging efforts, with a new domain name and everything, I can think of no better topic to start with than Foodspotting! Though as an investor, I’m clearly self-interested in promoting them, but I think that there are some useful insights and lessons learned that I think the Foodspotting early case study can provide.
Here are some of the elements of Foodspotting that I think are so useful.
Build something people want. This is of course the Paul Graham / YCombinator mantra, a statement that I think is as near as perfection as any mantra for Silicon Valley startups could be. I think thse 4 words do an amazing job conveying a focus and ethos that’s so important to getting a startup off the ground.
Foodspotting is not a YC company, but it does represent this ethos well. Users have enjoyed and engaged with Foodspotting from its earliest days, and this user base continues growing.
Stand for something. The Foodspotting team had strong views on several elements of what they were building. For example, from the outset, Foodspotting wanted to build a site focused on a positive set of food recommendations, a place where users were only really recommending food they liked. It wasn’t necessarily clear at first that this was a “correct” appraoch. And while a potentially subtle decision, it helped set a certain tone for the brand and built a spirit within their community, which in turn has enabled them to differentiate themselves versus other sites that are potentially competitive.
From talking to users and participating in the community, this decision seems to have had an impact on the health and vibrancy of its community. I find this very interesting, and I think there’s likely a longer post on this theme–specifically that when you’re building a community, any community, whether its an online social community like this or a real world community like a neighborhood, the small details can have a big impact in terms of the health and vibrancy of that community.
The larger point here though is that when in doubt stand for something–make choices that you believe in, and be willing to constrain your product and brand to elements that map to what you want to build.
Community, community, community. As an ex-Microserf , I recall well the Steve Ballmer awesomeness that is “developers, developers, developers, developers!” There was nothing better than hearing Steve say that word–was literally so fun. And useful too–Steve understood well how to galvanize a companies focus, and in its heyday, MSFT was just a juggernaut in terms of making the Wintel platform the obvious choice for developers.
I’m doubtful that we’ll ever see Foodspotting CEO & Co-Founder Alexa Andrezjewski doing a SteveB imitation “Monkey Dance,” but the team has had a strong and positive focus on nurturing its community. This focus and energy has been exciting to behold and watch, even from early days.