[Note: There is a lot of junk out there in the Web 2.0 space. I'd like to help readers cull through some of that to find not only good services, but great ideas. So, in my weekly Startup Spotlight I'll be assigning a score to a solution based on four criteria...does it serve a need, does it solve a problem, does it enable it's users, and does it take a creative approach? Highest score being 5 in each category, with the potential total being 20. Regardless of my final opinion, I want each company to get an opportunity to make it's case first, and not just have some reviewer tearing it apart. It's tough enough being a startup. ]
To say I'm passionate about food would be like saying Trekkers don't have an ongoing debate about Kirk versus Picard.I have knives sharp as lasers. I spend about $50-$70 on coffee each month. And our monthly food budget has a special section dedicated to Italian cured meats. I've even thought of putting my startup business experience to work creating a food lovers network...so imagine how happy I was to find a site already out there.
Described to me as a niche social network with the primary function not being networking, but food, GroupRecipes has a lot of interesting things to offer, and one of the few networking sites I actually might spend any length of time on.
There are a number of key things about this site I like. One of them being that unlike other social networks that only give value once you are a member, this site does not require membership to get something out of it. Without membership you can explore recipes, videos, flavor trends, and even user profiles. These things are paramount, in my opinion, if you want to convince people to sign up and join any community. Anything that makes me jump through hoops from the start, immediately turns me off.
I asked Kristopher Lederer (Chief Group Recipes Nerd) of GroupRecipes to tell me a little more about the site.
Tell me a bit about how this idea came to be?
It sounds terribly trite, especially in these 2.0 days we live in, but basically I looked at food websites and thought I could do it better (Wow, that sounds pompous too). These massive sites hadn't changed in years. Nobody was focusing on community, let alone harnessing it to make the user experience better and more efficient. So I studied the vertical for awhile and thought I had enough unique ideas to make a go of it.
The Taste Test gauges your personal tastes to help browse and locate recipes tailored to your desires
Can you tell me a little more about who you guys are, how many people, etc?
In terms of team, it is officially just me, but I have a large group of friends (all developers and foodies themselves) who volunteer a lot of their time. When you come up with a good idea you would be surprised at how many people are willing to help.
What have you learned about people and the foods they loved in the past few months?
I think the most surprising facet has been that people have pretty consistent taste patterns. Originally I thought it would take a very large historical dataset to be able to make good predictions, but that hasn't been the case. Other than that I was impressed with how many truly "Food Network Quality" home cooks are out there. It makes one think about the future of that network as the Internet starts to command more eyeballs and allow easy and mass distribution of user content.
You can explore recipes and food by "Stumbling," Tag Cloud, interesting foods, visually, a flavor cloud, etc.
I love the idea of a tag cloud for food and flavor, it is interesting to see food in that perspective. What's your favorite feature of the site?
I agree. In many 2.0's tag clouds are just a useless appendage, but in the case of food it makes a lot of sense. Traditional taxonomies for food are great, but I think user generated ones can capture and index recipes in a very helpful fashion. My favorite feature is the ability to refine searches by flavor.
What are your long term goals for the site?
I think the growth potential is very strong. People are very passionate about food and love to share great dishes. Social Networking also creates a strong positive feedback loop for growth as well. I look forward to when the site and recipe database really fills out and becomes a "Go To" resource for food lovers everywhere.
Tag Cloud based on flavors
What is your favorite recipe on the site?
That is an incredibly tough call. I like to try a few new recipes from the site every week, so I have a lot of favorites, but I just tried this Mexican Ice Cream Sandwich and it was pretty amazing. Very unique flavor combination.
My Final Thoughts
There are a number of things I love right off the start about this site. For one thing, it is a self funded creation that stems from passion and problem solving. And while it serves a niche...love of food and cooking is a rather large niche to serve, so this is a huge marketplace with plenty of room.
I also look forward to watching the site evolve over time, and would be fascinated to see trends that emerge by season or fad...or even by location. But the most important thing I love about this site is that it knows it isn't the networking aspect of social networking that is the number one issue here...it is the food.
If GroupRecipes can find and build it's audience, I predict good things for them.
Serves A Need: 4
Solves A Problem: 4
Enables Users: 4
Creative Approach: 5
16 17 of 20; Excellent