“Pheast.com” is a crowd-sourced recipe site. You can take any recipe on the site and easily tweak it to make it your own.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. Berlinsky-Schine regarding his start-up “Pheast.com”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Pheast” is all about?
Pheast is a crowd-sourced recipe site. You can take any recipe on the site and easily tweak it to make it your own. For example, you can take the existing recipe on the site for Tomato Sauce, add your secret ingredient – say, oregano – and voila! You can now share your own version of this recipe. This makes it easier for people to share without typing out a whole recipe.
2. When has “Pheast” been founded? And what stage is “Pheast” currently at?
Pheast LLC was officially founded in April 2012, though development began before that. It is currently in private beta. We don’t have a launch date yet for a public beta because we want to gather as much feedback as possible from early users to make sure we have an awesome product before opening the floodgates.
3. What is “Pheast”’s business model and how does it work?
It is not yet earning revenue, but will do so via advertising in the future if the site is successful. Honestly, user acquisition is the focus, and we don’t want a lot of distractions from the user experience to detract from that goal. To be a sustainable business we will need to put some ads up in the future, but they will never be super obtrusive.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
I (Adam Berlinsky-Schine) am the founder, and I am the only full time employee. I work on all technical aspects of the site, and coordinating other people’s work.
Others (friends of Adam) are helping part time, and contractors have been hired around the world through freelancer websites and various other means.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
They let you enter a recipe from scratch, but that is too cumbersome for most users to repeat regularly. Their sites are also extremely crowded and overloaded with too many features. Pheast makes it easy to take an existing recipe, tweak it, and share your own version.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Pheast” achieved so far?
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Pheast”’s competitive advantage over them?
Established players like Epicurious, Allrecipes, and Foodnetwork.com allow you to submit recipes from scratch, but that is cumbersome. No sites that we evaluated have the key feature of letting you split off an existing recipe as a new one. They also tend to be cluttered with feature creep as tends to happen with long lived software projects.
Younger start-ups like Yummly and Foodily are visually pleasing and not cluttered, but they solve a different goal. Both focus on great searching, whereas Pheast focuses on content creation.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
There were many challenges along the road, both technical and related to the product, and many that still lie ahead of us. While the challenges may be diverse, we are best equipped to handle them by staying lean and adaptive, able to respond to problems quickly as they arise.
We are very responsive to all feedback we get, especially from early beta users.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
There’s much more behind the scenes than the resulting presentation. That can apply to both technology and cooking. If I’m working on my laptop in public, I’ll often get nosy people looking over my screen at a series of white-on-black terminal screens and say something to the effect of “that’s all gibberish to me.” That sure helps me feel confident that I’ll still find a job if my startup does not succeed!
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Innovation and adaptability. By quickly reacting to customers’ feedback, we will be able to meet the needs of many users. The value of listening to customers’ feedback cannot be understated; without customers you don’t have a viable product.
11. If “Pheast” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
More personalization for users finding recipes, in addition to those sharing recipes. If you’re in the mood for pad thai, but you’ve always given recipes containing peanuts low ratings, Pheast will be able to find you the perfect, peanut-free Pad Thai.
I don’t foresee expanding out of cooking (and bartending!) but I think there are a lot of directions we can go within that arena where none of our competitors have gone yet.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Pheast” based on?
A love of cooking, and a gap in the marketplace. Everyone says this, but it’s especially true in entrepreneurship: do something you love.
It applies especially to entrepreneurs because there will be many, many reasons to give up and quit along the way; unless you love what you are doing, you will very likely succumb to failure.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
A great product is not the only criterion for success. You have to listen to your users, even if you don’t like what they have to say – and as hard as it is to do in practice, don’t take it personally.
I’ve learned a lot of technical things as well but I won’t bore you with the details here.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while being an entrepreneur is that priorities change drastically even on a day to day basis. We’ve tried to prepare for the future as much as possible, but asking an entrepreneur to accurately predict what the situation will be like in 6 months is laughable (don’t tell that to anyone who has read my business plan).
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
If Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest have taught us anything, it’s that people love to share. And who doesn’t love to share food? Pheast makes that available in a unique and easy way that is not present on other sites. We love sharing our recipes using the Pheast platform and we think customers will as well.
16. How did customers/users find out about you?
So far, through beta site listings like this one. After our public launch, we hope word will spread through deep integration with Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. “We will go viral” is of course a cop-out for people who aren’t being realistic, but I truly believe that focusing on making a great product that people will want to share is the best way to attract customers.
17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?
Beta users. We are targeting the early adopter crowd for now, who don’t mind the limitations (eg. bugs) in the product and who can give us useful feedback. Next, we hope to spread to food bloggers and others who are already sharing recipes by other means.
Eventually we hope to spread to moms who cook for their family and aren’t necessarily technically sophisticated.
18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
New customers come from sites like this, and in the future through viral marketing through other social networks (see “How did customers / users find out about you?” for my thoughts on that).
The pleasing user interface and uniqueness of the product will make customers want to try it, and we he hope that they will be hooked.
19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?
We hear that Pheast is easy to use and that it is unique concept. We have adapted so rapidly to many users’ feedback that most of it isn’t applicable anymore because the issues and limitations have been resolved. We can’t wait to hear what other beta users have to say so we can make our product even better!
20. How are you going to scale?
From a technical perspective, it was architected to handle growth. Amazon Web Services is a key part of that, though you can’t just say “I’m using AWS so therefore I can scale.” I’m sure we will hit unforeseen bottlenecks, but that’s true no matter how much you plan.
The key to scaling our user base is an awesome product that people want to use over and over again and hopefully share with their friends. Viral marketing, again.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Every day the answer to that question changes, as we implement feature requests very quickly. Most feedback has been related to the recipe editor, which has improved a great deal but we are still working on making easier to use, since it is so central to our product and our future success.
There isn’t really anything that customers keep asking for that hasn’t already been implemented.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We have no immediate plans for internationalization. In the long term it is of course one avenue for growth, but we need to rock the local market before thinking about that.
There’s not much localized about the site, so expanding to other English speaking countries would not be technically challenging, however we rely on a lot of natural language processing so expanding to other languages will be a hurdle.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
Literally billions of people around the world cook, so it’s a huge market. There is plenty of competition, but we believe that we can be a key player in the online recipe market. I don’t think anyone else has really tapped people’s eagerness to share their culinary creations with their friends.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Software developers can contact me directly (Adam Berlinsky-Schine, firstname.lastname@example.org). We don’t yet have funding so our ability to hire is limited, but we’d like to talk to you if you have a Computer Science degree, even if you’re new to industry (recent college grads are great). We are not currently hiring for non-technical positions.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We are seeking funding. Investors should contact Adam Berlinsky-Schine at email@example.com. The business is bootstrapped so far.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Just do it. There is no better time to start a company than right now, and even failure will result in invaluable experience for your career.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
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