Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. Ansinger regarding his start-up “Ven.io”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Ven.io” is all about?
Venio provides a comprehensive healthy lifestyle solution, which generates an interactive meal-plan that is personalized around your taste, health goals, and dietary preferences. Over time our application evaluates and evolves the meal-plan by leveraging the user’s psychology, tastes and behavior to reach concrete health results.
Through analytics and goal-targeting we reinforce good habits, and empower people to reach a healthy balance both at home and on-the-go. Having worked with dietitians all across Canada, we created a scientific approach to your health that can be tailored to the individual specifically.
2. When has “Ven.io” been founded? And what stage is “Ven.io” currently at?
Our company has been around since March 2012. Since then, it has been a crazy but exciting adventure. Up until last month for example, we adopted an agency model (one day a week) that allowed us to pay our employees a base salary.
One of our projects was to arrange a private event for Salman Khan in Toronto. Now we are just about to finish our first “friends and family” round, which allows us to focus solely on our own business. June especially is going to be an exciting month, as we are planning to launch our webapp on July 1st.
3. What is “Ven.io” business model and how does it work?
Adopting a SaaS-model, we will ask for a modest monthly fee from the end user. We validated that users are willing to pay for our solution as it provides more personalized and effective value. Charging the end-user allows to focus on creating real value for them, without giving up our integrity.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Having a team of around 10 employees, there are many different ways our team came together. Some met through “Startup Weekend”, while others were friends or met the founders at networking events. Our Dev team totals 6 people at any given time. Additional to that, we have 2 persons on our Business Development team, 1 Marketing person and 1 Operations person.
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?
Venio is different from competitors in several ways. Firstly, our product is personalized and convenient. We created a learning system that learns from your recipe or ingredient substitutions, making sure you end up with a meal plan tailored to your taste and preferences. Besides this, we generate a weekly grocery list that is structured by aisle making sure your trip to the supermarket will be short and effective.
Secondly, Venio really provides a scientific approach to healthy nutrition. We do not support unethical products, brands or diets but provide a transparent, effective and healthy nutrition plan based on proven science.
Thirdly, our product provides an advanced analytics and tracking capability. Each of our ingredients is linked to the USDA and provides data on more than 45 micronutrients. This allows us to track exactly which nutrients the user is eating in abundance and which not. This then allows us to provide balanced meal recommendations that enables the user to live a healthier lifestyle – tracking your progress towards your health goal while you are at it.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Ven.io” achieved so far?
As we have not launched our product yet, we our usage is currently limited to prelimenary testing. Some of our milestones would be finalizing this first investment round, engaging in a partnership with a successful design agency that does amazing work with our UX, and having finalized an amazing group of advisors who continue to contribute significantly on a daily basis.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Ven.io”’s competitive advantage over them?
We face direct competition from applications like Spark People, Calorie Counter, and Fit Click. Our product is superior because it provides a personalized health solution, which learns from user behavior and builds a meal-plan around their specific metrics (goals, body type, taste buds, dietary restrictions, etc). Venio is the only application that will combine healthy nutrition by allowing people to eat responsibly anywhere they go.
Additionally, most of our competitors provide meal plans that do not have the most “healthy” interest in mind. They promote brands and supplements in their meal plans as an additional revenue stream. At Venio, we provide a scientific and transparent approach that works in the best interest for the user, not the brands.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
We had to pivot our idea several times in order to arrive where we are now. Sometimes it can be difficult to realize collectively that there is a better way of doing things. Changing direction of the company after such an insight takes time, effort and guts – especially because so many people become increasingly invested in the product’s development.
Up until now however, we have been extremely lucky with our team. Everyone is willing to go the extra mile to create a positive change in the world of nutrition, and all of us put in the extra hours to create a superior product.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
Up until now outsiders have actually been very understanding as to what we are trying to do. No one questions the need for our product, and everyone is very interested in the concept.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Quite frankly, it is really our team that is going to make this a success. Each of our team members is very driven, fast-paced and critical. There is a great balance, respect and dynamic between the members’ work. We really see everyone being a leader in their own area of expertise.
11. If “Ven.io” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
If our startup is successful we will provide more specialized meal plan recommendations for people with special dietary needs (e.g. diabetic patients, professional athletes, and hospital rehabilitation). We feel that there is substantial value we can add to the lives of these people, and there are not a lot of applications out there that tailor to these niche markets.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Ven.io” based on?
It really was more of an evolution process. We validated that there was value in personalized meal plans, and took it from there. Talking to over 35 dietitians, scientists and professors we got a comprehensive grasp on where our solution was failing in the beginning. Along the way we made the necessary adjustments, and here we are today.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Validation is key.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Six months from now the biggest problem I envision Venio having is scouting great talent. Up until now we have been very lucky with the people we have been taking on – it has been so extremely critical for the development of our product thus far. I anticipate it could be hard to continue to find talent like this for all of our future employees down the road.
15. What’s the benefit for the user?
The benefit for the user is having an interactive health application that is tailored to their taste buds, health goals and dietary preferences/needs anywhere they go. Unlike other applications, our solution minimizes the amount of user inputting in order to provide accurate analytics that improves the user’s understanding of nutrition without making it complicated. Our technology is there to serve the user, not the other way around.
16. How did customers and/or users find out about you?
There are several collaborations in the making that will allow allow our users to get in touch with what we do. We are currently talking to several colleges about making our solutions part of their curriculum.
Besides this, we are currently looking at company wellness programs as well as insurance companies that are willing to adopt our product. We will naturally heavily promote our product through social media, conferences, trade shows, and magazines in order to get the word out to the public.
17. Who are your current users? Who are your target users?
We are initially targeting women between 25 to 35 years old that are conscious about improving their health. This group would more easily adopt our product as they already have a proven interest in improving their health and well being.
18. Where do new users come from and what makes new users try you?
New users would come from our existing distribution channels, word of mouth and marketing efforts.
19. What do your users say about your product and/or service?
We have been testing our application with select group of testers – feedback has been very supportive so far.
20. How are you going to scale?
Our application is available through the web and therefore worldwide. Our marketing efforts however will first focus on North America before expanding to other countries.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers keep asking for?
We are launching July 1st and have received very supportive feedback. The product roadmap has already been defined for the next couple of months based on what needs to be included. One of these things, is a capability to provide healthy meal recommendation on the go (based on the user’s current location). This is something we are currently developing, and will be part of our future product updates.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Yes, we are definitely planning to internationalize. Our headoffice will remain in Toronto unless an amazing opportunity will have us decide otherwise.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
The sky is our limit. Everyone needs healthy nutrition and as long as we are able to provide a solution that is practical, fun and effective we believe our user base will continue to grow. We are planning to achieve these goals by continuing to validate our product, and through an effective business and marketing strategy.
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?
Yes, since we are a team that is looking to make a big impact – we need exceptionally talented individuals to achieve this with. We currently are looking to bring in a creative director and a senior web developer. We encourage anyone who strongly believes they can be an asset to the team to apply at firstname.lastname@example.org
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?
Yes, we are currently aiming to raise our seed round in August. It is important for us that investors have a similar drive/passion for our business as us. We feel that surrounding ourselves with like minded individuals is the best way to success (if interested, send an email to email@example.com).
By August our business should be well on its way to being self-sustainable.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Validate, validate, validate… Also.. don’t forget to validate!